The Zika virus must be fought with better access to contraception and safe abortion as well as anti-mosquito measures, Tewodros Melesse, Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation has said today.
In a statement of solidarity with the World Health Organisation, he told WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan that the IPPF – the largest sexual and reproductive health service network in the world – supported her call for an emergency meeting in Geneva on Monday 1 Feb and was already taking action.
“We recognise the urgency and have initiated our response” he said.
“The IPPF Western Hemisphere – our region covering South America, the Caribbean and North America - has shared WHO guidelines on Zika with all its Member Associations, partners and staff.”
Tewodros Melesse said the IPPF would call on its Member Associations to help lead the global response to the Zika outbreak.
“The IPPF is ready to act swiftly, building on our global experience and expertise in sexual and reproductive health.”
He stressed Zika’s impact on women, in particular poor and vulnerable women.
“In the affected areas approximately half of pregnancies are unplanned. Poor women and women in rural areas are more susceptible to infection and less likely to have access to sexuality education and contraception,” said Tewodros Melesse.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 23 million women have an unmet need for contraception and account for 75% of unintended pregnancies in the region. Latin America is also home to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.
Tewodros Melesse urged that the fight against Zika must include access to contraception and safe abortion.
He said: “We recommend that strengthening family planning programs and access to safe abortion services for those women who need it and where it is permitted by law should be included in the strategies for responding to the Zika outbreak.”
Notes to editors
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International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is the world’s largest sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) provider.
Contraception, HIV and STIs, Abortion Care