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Statement by UNFPA Somalia Representative - Conference on Urban Innovation for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

On behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and indeed on my own behalf, I am pleased to be here this morning to join you all; distinguished ladies and gentlemen, at this very important innovative and innovating conference, by virtue of its topic I trust you will agree that “Urban Innovation for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”. Innovative in terms of its format – two universities + two UN agencies; innovative in terms of the platform that it offers for participants from the academic community.

So let me thank the partners have made this conference possible – the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Linkoping University, and the University of Borås. Let me also recognise the presence here of a major partner in promoting SRHR – the Swedish Government, represented by the Head of Development Cooperation for Somalia, Swedish Embassy, Mr. Per Karlsson.

We at UNFPA are pleased to be part of this innovative initiative because Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are at the heart of what we do. The rights and dignity of all people lie at the heart of development. This is why UNFPA works to help countries realize the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, which links investments in each person to sustainable development.

In less developed countries, the maternal mortality rate is nearly 20 times higher than that of more developed parts of the world; about a third of births in less developed countries do not benefit from skilled attendance, versus only 1 percent in more developed regions; the adolescent birth rate in less developed regions is over 3 times higher compared to more developed regions. All these statistics worsen even further in the least developed countries.

While we expect the urban population to have better outcomes compared to rural areas, we see great differences between the urban poor and the urban rich. For example, in Kenya, the urban poor are four times as likely as the urban rich to die by the age of five. These disparities show the urgent need to find solutions for the urban poor.

New technologies and innovations, including mobile applications, have enormous potential for increasing the access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in urban areas, and then to expand this also to rural areas. Due to the rapid spread of telecommunications infrastructure, mobile phones and internet usage in low and middle income countries such technologies could be particularly helpful in reaching vulnerable groups including youth and young families.

Innovation, however, is not only about technology. The health inequalities that exist between the rich and poor in urban settings shows the gap still needing to be bridged even with accessible services. Finding innovative ways and means to reach the poorest with health promotion and services, finding solutions to common reproductive health needs at low cost and increasing women’s ability to work are some of issues we should strive to find innovative solutions for.

We need to ensure that youth, particularly young women, are healthy and that they possess the right skills when they enter the job market hence the need to ensure that there are innovations in health and education which are all-encompassing, sustainable and equitable for all.

For example, when a young adolescent girl is not married during her childhood, is not forced to leave school nor exposed to unplanned pregnancies, when she is not at high risk of illness and death nor suffering maternal morbidities; when she is not exposed to informal work, insecurity and displacement; – she becomes an asset for a country’s potential to seize the demographic dividend.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Innovation is not only about new technologies and new ways to deliver services to the vulnerable. It is also about new ways of thinking, finding new opportunities for development. The demographic dividend is an example of this. It refers to countries with the greatest demographic opportunity for development are those entering a period in which the working-age population has good health, quality education, decent employment and a lower proportion of young dependents.

The demographic dividend is also about economic growth achieved by having proportionally more people of working age. Cities across the world are home to millions of young people – for instance countries in sub-Saharan Africa have the youngest proportion of population in the world with over 70 percent of the population aged below 30.

Realizing the importance of embracing the unprecedentedly large cohorts of young people across the globe and particularly in Africa; requires multiple intersecting investments. It is therefore most essential to build the capabilities of underprivileged individuals and allow room and opportunity to be innovative.

As we commence deliberations at this gathering, we at UNFPA renew our commitment to working with global partners and countries to strengthen innovations in Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. UNFPA commits to reinforce partnerships with countries to deliver the sexual and reproductive health information that can contribute to a demographic dividend. These include programmes for youth empowerment; improvements in maternal, newborn and child health; universal access to reproductive health; prevention and treatment of HIV and sexually transmitted infections; and the elimination of gender-based violence and harmful practices such as FGM & child marriage.



For more information please contact UNFPA Somalia Communications Specialist Pilirani Semu-Banda on e-mail:

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For more information please contact UNFPA Somalia Communications Specialist Pilirani Semu-Banda on e-mail: