Reproductive health

Reproductive health
A young boy sleeps in his mother’s arms while waiting in a queue to see health care auxiliary Betty Maretele at the Ghanzi Clinic in the town of Ghanzi in Botswana in November 2010.
© UNICEF/Nesbitt

Three essential reproductive health commodities were identified by the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities. They can lead to healthier timing and spacing of pregnancies, and are essential to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths.

  • Contraceptive implants are a highly effective and popular method of long lasting and reversible contraception, offering multi-year protection.
  • Female condoms are the only female-initiated method available that offer dual protection from pregnancy and STIs/HIV.
  • Emergency contraception is a unique method, offering women an important second chance to prevent unintended pregnancy if a method fails, is not used, or sex is forced.

Together, contraceptive implants, female condoms and emergency contraception can reduce unintended pregnancies and deaths related to unsafe abortions, diminish the transmission of STIs including HIV and reduce the incidence of deaths and illnesses related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. If contraceptives were available to every woman who wanted to use them, an estimated 53 million unintended pregnancies could be avoided, 90,000 women’s lives saved, and 590,000 newborn deaths averted annually.

Pooling expertise on family planning

The Reproductive Health Technical Resource Team has been advancing the UN Commission’s recommendations from 2012 to 2016 and worked to ensure that these commodities are available in countries with a high burden of disease, put into the hands of skilled health workers and administered properly to save women and children.  The expertise of the TRT members as well as the knowledge resources they have developed during this period are captured in the Life-Saving Commodities Practitioners’ Network.

Progress to date 


  • Improve the policy and regulatory environment for new and underused family planning methods: The ‘Lusaka Call to Action’, developed by family planning decision makers and practitioners from  20 African, Latin American and Caribbean countries in December 2014, during the Global Consultation on Female Condoms, calls on governments and the donor community to increase their support to make female condoms more widely accessible and used, as a powerful tool against unintended pregnancies, HIV transmission and other sexually transmitted infections. The Call to Action requests governments and donors to include female condoms on the EMLs, facilitate procurement, support demand generation and awareness campaigns, and allocate dedicated funding.


  • Provide assistance in-country to increase awareness for underused family planning methods: a pharmacy training module targets pharmacists and will be used to train the first group of pharmacists on emergency contraception in Malawi in April 2015.


  • Increase awareness for increased access to underutilized family planning commodities: two journalist round table discussions in December on female condom advocacy and outreach alerted journalists on the lack of access to female condoms, and encouraged them to raise public and donor awareness on this poor availability. The first round table, in Zambia, took place as part of the Global Consultation on Female Condom in Lusaka, 2-6 December 2014, and brought together eight journalists, resulting in a range of stories published in local media and calling the attention on the benefits of female condoms. The second round table, held in London on 9 December, was targeting 19 European journalists and is likely to results in coverage later in 2015.

Topic Experts

  • Sarah Rich
  • Sharmila Raj
  • Mario Philip Festin
  • Heather Clark
  • Alison Morgan
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