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Latin America and Caribbean countries must invest more in health - Annan

Latin America and Caribbean countries must invest more in health - Annan

While praising Latin American and Caribbean countries for integrating population issues into national policies, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling for more investment in universal access to health and education in the region.

In a message today to a regional meeting in Puerto Rico, Mr. Annan noted that since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Governments and their partners have worked hard to provide greater access to reproductive health services, which he said were essential for reducing infant and maternal mortality and combating poverty in general.

"But much more can and must be done," he said in a message to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean's (ECLAC) Ad Hoc Committee on Population and Development, which is meeting through tomorrow.

Mr. Annan's message, delivered on his behalf by ECLAC Executive Secretary Jose Luis Machinea, also stressed a need for stronger efforts in the region to promote women's rights.

"Every woman and girl should have equal opportunity, and enjoy freedom from discrimination and violence," he said. "Such guarantees would yield high returns not only for individuals, but also for families and communities."

He said implementation of the ICPD goals was crucial for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of actions to address global problems such as extreme hunger and poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the lack of basic sanitation and clean water by 2015.

"I call on all ECLAC Member States to do their utmost to continue following these practical blueprints for reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development," he said, warning that, "The price of inaction - in lives lost, in the spread of AIDS, in the persistence of social, ethnic and gender inequities - is too high to contemplate."

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said she was “absolutely convinced” that providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as access to education and employment, could effectively break the cycle of poverty that trapped millions of people in the region.

“Enabling people to make their own decisions about if, and when, to have children and how often, ensuring that women enjoy the same rights as men, and ensuring that people can live their lives free of violence and sexual coercion are not only fundamental human rights, they are also critical elements in policies to reduce poverty,” Ms. Obaid stressed in her address to the 300 ministers and senior officials in attendance.