To most of you, this may not seem exciting. But it is terrifically important. For example, at a panel on maternal health, the presenters offered easier, more accurate, and less expensive ways to collect maternal mortality data, which led to a discussion of strategies for meeting MDG 5 and for improving maternal and infant health throughout the world. Similar panels addressed the challenges facing scientists and programmers working on issues as disparate as water, migration, and the effect of armed conflict on children.
For its 50th Anniversary, IUSSP also indulged in a bit of navel-gazing. Wolfgang Lutz called for more research on predictions and more policy recommendations—what he dubbed the “Demographers’ Transition” (an inside joke, to be sure). Ndola Prata’s “Opportunity Model” (developed jointly with Malcolm Potts and Martha Campbell), argues that use of contraceptives may increase simply if they are more available. Borrowing from marketing theory and such examples as remote controls and Post-It notes, the model generated quite an uproar. A UNFPA-hosted plenary on “After Cairo” closed the day with a strategic discussion about future population, family planning, reproductive health, and development strategies.
A Visit to the Hospital
At the Ibn Zohr Hospital’s crisis center in Marrakech, victims of sexual, physical, and psychological violence are treated and counseled free of charge. Though only founded in 2006, the clinic has defied expectations by helping hundreds of women and children each year, thanks in large part to an effective referral network comprising NGOs, media (especially radio), the police, hospitals, and health professionals. “Listening centers,” local outposts offering basic education on health and rights, are responsible for 56 percent of all referrals.
Ibn Zohr’s services are funded by the Moroccan government and UNFPA. Data has been collected since service delivery began, and shows that the overwhelming type of abuse suffered by women is physical (86 percent), while children under 15 report a mix of sexual (40 percent) and physical (43 percent) abuse, with more sexual abuse occurring among boys than girls.
Other IUSSP site visits included a rural reproductive health clinic, a center for abandoned children, and a house for female students. Too often, site visits are far away from the conference and before or after the main events, costing attendees extra time and money. Instead, the IUSSP site visits are here in Marrakech, where even the most experienced practitioners can learn more about Morocco’s unique blend of modernization and religious and cultural conservatism. These trips are truly unique and invaluable learning opportunities—organizers of similar conferences take note.