Statement delivered by Dr. Joe Thomas, Executive Director of PPD at the Eastern Africa Reproductive Health Network (EARHN) Coordination Meeting “From MDGs to SDGs: Review and Development of EARHN Strategic Plan 2017–2021”, 21–22 March 2017, Kampala, Uganda



It is a great privilege to be invited to the Eastern Africa Reproductive Health Network (EARHN) Coordination Meeting. “From MDGs to SDGs: Review and Development of EARHN Strategic Plan
2017–2021”. This network has significantly contributed to the ICPD PO. Let me thank the organizers for inviting me to this meeting.

Partners in Population and Development (PPD) is a Southern-led, Southern-run inter-governmental organization bringing 26 developing countries together to assist each other and other developing countries to address our common population and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and challenges. PPD was incepted in conjunction with the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994. The organization is a Permanent Observer at the United Nations General Assembly and has Diplomatic Status in Bangladesh. It has offices in New York, Geneva, Uganda and China.

PPD works through South-South cooperation by raising a common voice and sharing sustainable, effective and efficient solutions.

Recognizing that reproductive health and population are not solely health issues, PPD approaches SRHR and population issues from a rights-based perspective and aims to strengthen and mainstream the links between gender equality, SRHR, social justice, poverty reduction, development and the achievement of global development goals. Since its founding in 1994, PPD has improved the SRHR policies and programs in its member states. Highlights include:

  1. Building Political Will for Family Planning and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. PPD works through the public planning and health systems to build knowledge and capacity of leaders at technical, managerial, and policy levels to ensure that the right, locally-owned and locally-driven policies and programs are institutionalized. Through the Africa Regional Office, PPD has developed parliamentary leadership and commitment for family planning and reproductive health resulting in increased tabling of private members’ bills in countries including Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe. In addition, through targeted advocacy work, PPD ARO has helped to increase the Ugandan national budget for reproductive health supplies more than fivefold, from 1.5 to 8 billion Ugandan shillings, by working with the Ministries of Health and Finance, the National Medical Stores, and Parliamentarians to streamline funding. PPD ARO also worked with other advocates to get a policy approved to allow community health workers to provide injectable contraceptives in Uganda.
  1. Developing and Promoting Voices of the South. PPD has built the capacities of Southern leaders to be strong advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in their own countries, regionally, and globally. PPD’s SRHR champions include the respective Ministers of Health, of Finance, and of Social Development in its 25 [WHY NOT 26??] member countries. PPD has also developed the knowledge and advocacy skills of parliamentarians throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. PPD’s development of Southern leaders for SRHR has resulted in a stronger Southern voice for SRHR at the international fora, as well as at the national levels.
  2. Identification and South-South Replication of Best Practices. PPD has capitalized on the wealth of intellectual and programmatic capacity that exists in its member countries through enabling the replication of best practices in population and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Through PPD, the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand worked with the National Committee for Population and Family Planning (NCPFP) in Vietnam to assist the Vietnamese government in better serving its hard-to-reach communities living in the mountainous and remote regions of Ba Vi district, Ha Tay province and Yen Hung district, Quang Ninh province, Vietnam. PPD has also brought together faith-based organizations from member countries to develop a reproductive health training curriculum for Islamic leaders, resulting in the training of 1,200 grassroots religious leaders in Bangladesh, China, India, and Thailand.
  3. Brokering Commodities and Reduce Regulatory Barriers to Improve Reproductive Health Commodity Security. The Chinese government, working through the PPD China Office, has donated over $1 million USD worth of contraceptives and $600,000 worth of reproductive health medical supplies to PPD member countries in South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
  4. Developing the Next Generation of Southern Leaders. Through partnership with 21 institutions, PPD has offered training programs and fellowships to over 2,700 professionals working in developing countries to improve their technical skills and leadership abilities. Around 80% of the program cost is contributed by PPD’s member countries, making South-South fellowships a significant and cost-effective modality wherein the next generation of reproductive health leaders in the Global South are developed.

PPD values its collaboration with Eastern Africa Reproductive Health Network (EARHN).

The Eastern Africa Reproductive Health Network (EARHN) is a south-south initiative comprised of government ministries addressing population issues. Its geographical coverage includes Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, south Sudan and Uganda. EARHN was founded in 1996 by members in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The Eastern Africa countries share similar social, political, demographic and geographic environments. EARHN believes that south-south cooperation has untapped potential for approaching new opportunities and sharing good practices in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Eastern Africa countries have extensive experiences in SRHR. These good practices and experiences offer a set of known lessons on which to build a new, collaborative effort to initiate change in-country and regionally, in order to improve the health and rights of all people, and in particular, the SRHR status of women and youth. EARHN will build upon the experiences of members within and outside of the network towards a collaborative effort to create positive change in both policy and program implementation within Eastern Africa.

EARHN’s vision is “an Eastern African region free from sexual and reproductive health burdens.” EARHN, as a regional network is committed to promoting sound sexual and reproductive health policies and programs across borders.

EARHN works through strategic partnerships, effective coordination and sharing of critical information, experiences and expertise. In order to attain its vision, carry out its mission and fulfill its mandate, EARHN has developed six strategic objectives grouped under three areas of strategic focus:

  • Advocacy and Coalition Building;
  • Program Development and Expansion, and;
  • Institutional Strengthening.

Through Advocacy and Coalition building as a strategic focus, EARHN expects to increase awareness, understanding and support for Reproductive Health among key policy and decision makers in the region. It also hopes to strengthen linkages and strategic partnerships with national, regional and international institutions and civil society organizations, and build synergies and maximize utilization of resources.

Some of the highlights of EARHN’s achievements are: Expansion of membership to include Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and shortly, Southern Sudan; and development and dissemination of policy briefs, newsletters and sharing good practices in the region using South-South cooperation modality.

EARHN successfully convened three Annual Coordination Meetings in which best practices, opportunities and challenges were shared including strategies for resource mobilization; development of strong institutional partnerships; facilitation of exchange visits between EARHN member countries to share good practices; and establishment of a functional EARHN website.

EARHN has initiated constructive and productive dialogue with key FP/RH Champions to enhance their role, focus and resource allocation to the SRHR Agenda; and collaboration and strategic networking with Members of Parliament within countries and in the region.

EARHN’s overall goal of contributing to the improvement of the SRHR situation in Eastern Africa will be pursued by focusing on strengthening three key areas: Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships; Coordination, exchange and South-South Learning; and Institutional Capacity Building. And EARHN has the capacity to implement innovative and collaborative strategies aimed at achieving ICPD goals and  objectives.


Though, there  is no specific population goals presented as sustainable development goals, the  SDGs position  population related issues  in a more integrated manner than was the case for the MDGs.

According to WHO (HEALTH IN 2015: FROM MDGs TO SDGs), major population trends (morbidity, mortality and migration) impact health. Fertility rates have fallen substantially almost everywhere, but still remain high in the African Region. Close to 40% of the population growth in 2015–2030 will come from Africa, and more than one quarter of the world’s children will live there by 2030. The population aged 60 and over will increase by 50% in the SDG era. This presents many opportunities but will also challenge existing social norms, require a re-aligning of health systems and challenge countries to provide sustainable social security and long-term care. By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

While EARHN is developing its strategic plan 2017–2021, I would like to consider few priority issues:

How can EARHN advance integration of population dynamics into national development plan?

How can the network improve adolescent’s access to sexual, reproductive health and family planning services, networks contribution towards improving maternal and child health?

How to promote social cohesion of migrant populations by addressing their reproductive health service and using the platform to create greater understanding and addressing the relationship between poverty and health?

The network also should develop strategies for advocacy & policy development. The network has an increasing role to play in the area of Global health and population diplomacy. Partnerships and relationships building is a key sustainable development goal (SDG 17) as well as of the MDG (MDG 8)

PPD, through its diplomatic presence in New York and Geneva is willing to amplify the advocacy efforts of EARHN at global platforms.

And I wish for a productive meeting!

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