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United Nations, July 11, 2007



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon?s message for World Population Day, to be observed on 11 July:

The theme of this year?s World Population Day -- men as partners for maternal health -- focuses attention on the fundamental role of men in supporting women?s rights, including their right to sexual and reproductive health.

Today, more than half a million women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, 99 per cent of them in developing countries. Many more suffer serious complications that can have a severe impact on the quality of life for women and their families. Almost all of this death and suffering is preventable.

As partners for maternal health, men can save lives. They play a decisive role in many respects. Husbands often make decisions about family planning and the use of household resources that influence the well-being and prospects of the whole family. The support of an informed husband improves pregnancy and childbirth outcomes and can mean the difference between life and death in cases of complications, when women need immediate medical care. And supportive fathers can play an important role in the love, care and nurturance of their children.

Far too many women die during pregnancy and childbirth because their right to sexual and reproductive health is denied. The alarming spread of HIV among women is a tragic reminder that, in many places, women do not have the power to protect their own health. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life. When she is healthy, she can be more productive. And when her reproductive rights are promoted and protected, she has freedom to participate fully and equally in society.

Several countries have succeeded in significantly reducing maternal death rates in the space of a decade, when women gained access to family planning, midwives and backup emergency obstetric care. However, much more needs to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of improving maternal health around the world by 2015. Partnering with men is an important strategy for advancing reproductive health and rights. And gender equality, another Millennium Development Goal, is most likely to be achieved when men recognize that the lives of men and women are interdependent and that the empowerment of women benefits everyone.

On this World Population Day, let us all encourage men to become partners and agents for change, supporting human rights and safe motherhood in every way possible, thus contributing to creating a world of greater health and opportunity for all.

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