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UNICEF & family planning

UNICEF has long viewed the responsible planning of family size, especially birth spacing, as an essential part of maternal and child health (MCH) services. While containing rapid population growth is generally the central concern of most family planning advocates, UNICEF sees the primary objective of child spacing as bringing about an improvement in the survival, well-being and quality of life of the child, the mother and the family.

In 1994, the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development made it clear that family planning programmes must be part of a wider approach to improved child survival, safe motherhood and reproductive health.

That wider approach - including increasing women's control over their own lives, working for gender equality, and improving levels of women's health and education - demands the efforts of many United Nations organizations and specialized agencies, and involves a broad division of labour between them.

As a matter of policy, approved by its Executive Board, UNICEF does not advocate any particular method of family planning, believing this to be a matter best decided by people themselves in accordance with their needs, values and preferences. As a matter of practice, UNICEF does not provide contraceptive supplies. UNICEF has never provided support for abortion and it continues to be the long-standing UNICEF policy not to support abortion as a method of family planning.

However, as part of its mandate for improving the well-being of children and women, UNICEF is actively involved in advocacy and practical action for the reduction of under-five mortality and maternal mortality, for the support of breastfeeding, for the education of girls and raising the age of marriage, and for supporting women in their multiple roles. All of these make a major and direct contribution towards the integrated approach to family planning and population issues.

In particular, UNICEF continues to advocate the well-informed timing and spacing of births, and to draw attention to the well-documented disadvantages for both mother and child of births that are `too close or too many' and to mothers who are `too young or too old'.

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