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The World Bank's Reproductive Health Action Plan 2010-2015

Reproductive health (RH) is a key facet of human development. Improved RH outcomes have broader individual, family, and societal benefits.[i] Yet, improvements in RH have generally lagged improvements in other health outcomes. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for maternal health is one where the least amount of progress of all the MDGs has been made to date globally.[ii] 

In recognition of this, the past two years have seen an emerging global consensus re-focusing attention on RH, offering an unprecedented opportunity to redress the neglect of RH, through platforms such as the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH), the Global Campaign for the Health MDGs, and the High Level Task Force on Innovative Financing. The Bank, together with UNFPA, UNICEF, and WHO, has also signed the UN Joint Statement on Maternal and Neonatal Health (UN-MNH/H4) aimed at working with country governments toMother and 3 children
ensure that core interventions for addressing maternal and neonatal health are addressed within the national health plans, including IHP+ compacts.[iii] 

In tandem with the global re-emphasis on RH and in recognition of the importance of RH for human development, in April 2009 the World Bank’s Executive Board recommended the development of a Reproductive Health Action Plan.

Report: The World Bank Reproductive Health and Action Plan (PDF 2.8MB) 


The main objective of the Reproductive Health Action Plan (RHAP) is to help client countries improve their RH outcomes, particularly for the poor and the vulnerable in the context of the Bank’s overall strategy for poverty alleviation and health systems strengthening.

The Action Plan is a detailed operationalization of the RH component of the Bank’s 2007 Health, Nutrition, and Population (HNP) Strategy and is aimed at reinvigorated the Bank’s commitment to RH. It underscores the Bank’s strong commitment to RH in line with the Program of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

In line with its HNP strategy, the Bank will work closely with countries and development partners to strengthen health systems to ensure improved access to quality family planning, maternal health care, and other reproductive health services.


In order to meet these objectives effectively, the RHAP recommends focusing on the following five areas:

1. High burden countries. These are countries with high maternal mortality and fertility rates i.e. countries with MMR of 220/100,000 live births and above and TFR of 3 and higher. Majority of these countries are in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. The countries are generally also characterized by medium to high levels of STI prevalence and weak health systems. The RHAP will prioritize work in these countries.

Maternal Mortality vs. Fertility 2005

2. Health systems strengthening. The Action Plan emphasizes strengthening key interventions for better maternal and reproductive health outcomes within health systems strengthening (HSS). The Bank strongly supports availability of quality contraceptives, skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetrics care for pregnant women. The Bank will focus on two fronts to achieve this: (1) provision of quality essential inputs (supplies and drugs, HR, facilities); and (2) ensuring equity (e.g. through innovative financing such as RBF).

3. Poverty. Looking beyond the health sector, the Action Plan draws focus onto the linkages between health and poverty. The Bank will provide technical assistance and support to countries in their effort to reach women, especially in the lower two wealth quintiles and ensure that they have access to the full range of reproductive health services.

4. Youth. The Action Plan will also focus on the youth, through support to countries to improve access to reproductive health services for the youth for providing training to doctors and nurses, information/knowledge of safe sex, and access to services for preventing unplanned pregnancies, and supporting countries to increasing motivation among young people to delay pregnancy and childbearing and achieve higher levels of education and training before forming a family.

5. Working with partners. Guided by the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action, the Bank will work closely with partners to support country-led health system strengthening strategies to produce, finance and deliver and increase utilization of reproductive health services.


The Reproductive Health Action Plan has benefitted from both internal and external consultations and was presented to the Bank’s Executive Board in May, 2010.

[i] Consultation outcomes are available here.

[i] Singh, S, JE Darroch, M Vlassoff, and J Nadeau (2004), Adding it up: the Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care, New York: UNFPA /Alan Guttmacher Institute

[ii] The maternal mortality MDG calls for a three-fourths reduction in the maternal mortality ratio over the period 1990-2015. For recent update on status of MDGs, see World Bank (2009), Global Monitoring Report: A Global Emergency, Washington, DC: World Bank.

[iii] World Bank (2009); Implementation of the World Bank’s Strategy for Health, Nutrition and Population (HNP) results: Achievements, Challenges and the Way Forward,Washington DC: World Bank

For more information, please contact Seemeen Saadat.

The World Bank Reproductive Health and Action Plan (PDF 2.8MB)

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    Washington DC, November 4, 2009
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  • Harvard Global Equity Initiative
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  • International Family Planning Conference
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  • International Video Conference on the Reproductive Health Action Plan
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  • Feedback and Comments
    - UKSRH Network (PDF 104kb)

Background Materials

Last updated: 2011-07-20

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