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Good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, psychological and social integrity in all matters related to the reproductive system. This means that people have the ability to have a satisfying and safe reproductive life, the ability to have children, and the freedom to decide whether and when they want to have children and how many children.

To maintain sexual and reproductive health, people need access to accurate information and a safe, effective and affordable contraceptive method of their choice. They should be given the right and culturally appropriate information and empowered to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections. When they decide to have children, women must have access to information and services that can help them achieve a safe pregnancy, a safe birth, and a healthy baby.

Everyone has the right to make their own choices about their sexual and reproductive health. UNFPA in the Arab states works, in cooperation with a wide range of national and regional partners, towards the goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning as a key component of achieving the sustainable development goals number 3 and 5 on healthy lives and wellbeing and gender equality..

Reproductive health and development

UNFPA works to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights remain at the center of the development process. The International Conference on Population and Development makes a clear link between reproductive health, human rights and sustainable development. When sexual and reproductive health needs are not met, individuals are denied the right to make accurate decisions about their bodies and their future, and the well-being of their families and future generations is affected respectively. Because women are the ones who bear children, and they are often responsible for their nutrition, sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights issues cannot be immune to gender inequality. The denial of these rights exacerbates cumulative poverty and inequality.

What the United Nations Population Fund does in the Arab region

The Arab region is home to more than 400 million people, 28 percent of whom are young men and women under the age of 30. Around half of its total population is composed of women and girls, nearly 107 million of them of childbearing age, that is, they can become pregnant and contribute to 3.5 children born on average per woman in the Arab region. This fertility rate is higher than the global fertility rate, which is around 2.5 children per woman. Maternal mortality remains high in the region, reaching 162 deaths per 100,000 live births according to the latest UNFPA State of the World Population report of 2019.

As the United Nations agency responsible for promoting reproductive health and rights, UNFPA-ASRO works with 20 Arab countries through 15 country offices and 1 regional office to respond to the reproductive health needs of the population, including in humanitarian contexts. UNFPA Arab states office supports national counterparts to prepare for and respond to natural and conflict-related crises to minimize its impact on women and young girls.

As a human rights-based organization, UNFPA works with governments, civil society, donors, development partners and associate United Nations agencies to ensure that people, including adolescents and older persons, have access to sexual and reproductive health and enjoy their reproductive rights. UNFPA conducts field research that enables it to make credible recommendations and inform policy makers and decision takers on how to promote gender equality and change prevailing traditions. UNFPA’s current research priorities include SRH inequities analysis, health system research on integration of SRH into Primary Health Care, maternal death surveillance and response systems, and SRH needs of Persons with Disabilities. It also advocates for the rights of young women and men to obtain information, skills and opportunities that will enable them to realize their potential.