The above heading is the title of the speech by the Vanuatu Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, when he officially opened the 12th Biennial Conference of the Pacific Society of Reproductive Health at the National Convention Centre in Port Vila on Sunday.

He said over the last 37 years of independence, Vanuatu has made great progress in national development, despite the many struggles and challenges. One is that Vanuatu’s average life expectancy is now 72 years.

“For more than three decades, we have invested in women’s health through a national Maternal and Child Health Program, focusing on the survival and well-being of mothers, children and their families.

“The program is rolled out to all six provinces so that the services can reach our rural population.”

The Prime Minister shared some of the key national reproductive indicators to illustrate the outcome of this investment: Antenatal care coverage and rates for skilled birth attendants have both exceeded 75%; Maternal deaths have decreased in the last 25 years with an average of 5-7 maternal deaths reported per year in the last five years, equating to around 100 deaths per 100,000 livebirths; and Under-five child deaths have successfully decreased from 58% per 1000 livebirths in 1990, to an estimated 27 in 2016.

“However, despite this reassuring data, much of our rural populations still do not have access to basic health services, especially those living in remote communities. Some provinces are still reporting leass than 50% health facility deliveries,” he added.

He said the use of contraception still needed more work. “We have a high unmet need for Family Planning at 50%, resulting in high fertility rates and rapid population growth. We need to slow down population growth to allow more space for development to take place.”

The theme of the conference was: ‘Reproductive Health and the Sustainable Development Goals – Catalyst for accelerating progress.” READ MORE