The official visit of the UNFPA Executive Director Mrs. Thoraya Obaid to the Russian Federation took place on 4-7 October 2003 and was aimed at reviewing the current status of population and development issues and advocating for greater recognition of pressing population and reproductive health issues in the country. The UNFPA Executive Director was accompanied by Mrs. Ann Erb Leoncavallo, the UNFPA Information Officer and Mr. Ramiz Alakbarov, UNFPA Programme Specialist, Division for Arab States and Europe, Mr. Vassiliy Nebenzya, Deputy Director of the Department of International Organizations of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Mrs. Lidia Bardakova, UNFPA Officer in Charge.
Mrs. Obaid visited St. Petersburg, which is one of the project fields, well known for its youth-friendly services and HIV prevention among vulnerable groups, such as commercial sex workers. It is also one of the regions of piloting project on population development strategy. In the course of her visit the Executive Director met with the acting Governor of St. Petersburg, the Vice-Governor in charge of health and social services, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, and various officials of the social and health department of the St. Petersburg municipality.
The UNFPA team visited Youth Friendly Clinic “Juventa”. It offers comprehensive health services, including reproductive healthcare, and prevention, educational and social/psychological rehabilitation services. The visit to the clinic was continued with a meeting with youth volunteers and representatives of the NGO “Humanitarian Action”. Volunteers and the NGO made a comprehensive presentation of their joint project. “Humanitarian Action” is a national entity established with support of «Medicenes du Monde», and concerned with HIV/AIDS prevention among street youth and intravenous drug users . The need to implement some joint activities with YFC “Juventa” arises from the fact that adolescents using drugs need to be referred for reproductive health services to the clinic. The “Juventa” Youth Friendly Clinic and “Humanitarian Action” were presented with UNFPA certificates of recognition and appreciation.
In Moscow UNFPA Executive Director had meetings with representatives of such UNFPA partners as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, the State Committee on Statistics, the State Duma, and NGOs.
At the meeting in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Mr. Yuri Fedotov, the Deputy Minister recognized the importance of external assistance to the Russian Federation in stabilizing the population, encouraging higher fertility, reinforcing the family through family support policies and practices, improving reproductive health services, and optimizing migration processes.
During the meeting with the Deputy Minister of Health, Ms. Olga Sharapova it was stressed that UNFPA enjoys good cooperation with the Ministry of Health, which has been implementing UNFPA funded projects since 1999. UNFPA was working with the Ministry of Health on improvement of reproductive health services through the provision of equipment and training. There are a number of other initiatives, including continuation of the project in the Smolensk region, the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV Conference, and the preparation of ICPD + 10 report.
The meeting with the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on public health and sport Mr. Nikolai Gerasimenko focused on the new abortion regulations approved by the Government and restrictions on the availability of services, as well as the overall support that the Duma is providing to reproductive health and rights law-making. At the meeting Mr. Gerasimenko noted that the relationship with Russian Family Planning Association was cordial and welcomed UNFPA participation in drafting legislation on reproductive health and reproductive rights if necessary.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Development is the lead agency in the country responsible for population and social policies. Minister Alexander Pochinok recognized a fruitful cooperation between the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, and UNFPA in supporting the demographic policy. The example of such policy could be a new project “Strengthening of National Capacity in the Development and Implementation of Regional Population Development Strategy”. This project was signed on 1 July 2003 and is implemented in four regions: St.Petersburg, Smolensk and Saratov regions, the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Area.
Minister spoke about current population projections, which show an annual decline in population of 700,000 persons, and a progressive decline in the labour force. Mr. Alexander Pochinok noted that one of the possible ways to resolve the economic impact of negative population growth is to encourage migration from neighboring countries, and to ensure the legal status of migrants.
Among other meetings were the meetings with the Chairman of the State Statistics Committee Mr. Sokolin and the Chairman of the CIS Statistics Committee Mr. Korolev; visit to Russian Family Planning Association (RFPA), meeting with Ms. Inga Grebesheva, President of RFPA; working lunch with the UN Country Team in UNFPA Office in Moscow.
Photo: Mrs. Thoraya Obaid
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Yuri Fedotov greets the UNFPA Executive Director
The main physician of “Juventa” Clinic Professor Pavel Krotin is presented with UNFPA Certificate of recognition and appreciation
A Russian souvenir from Alexander Pochinok
A heart-to-heart talk with Olga Sharapova
Meeting with volunteers and representatives of NGO “Humanitarian Action”
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