A malnourished boy sits with his mother at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Upper Nile, South Sudan, July 2, 2012. REUTERS/Adriane Ohanesian
By Maria Caspani
LONDON (TrustLaw) – Donors at a global London summit raised $2.6 billion to provide 120 million more women and girls in the developing world access to voluntary family planning services by 2020.
The amount, pledged by leaders from donor countries, international agencies, civil society, foundations and the private sector, exceeded the summit’s initial goal of $2.3 billion.
Coupled with commitments of resources and infrastructure support from developing countries, the pledges at the summit met the $4.3 billion needed to provide services to an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries.
The one-day summit - co-hosted Wednesday by the British government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) - aimed at increasing the demand and support for family planning as well as removing barriers to access and use.
“We are here for a simple reason,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in an unscheduled appearance at the event. “Women should be able to decide freely whether, when and how many children to have…it is fundamental to any hope of tackling poverty in countries.”
Studies show that every $1 invested in family planning services yields up to $6 in savings on health, housing, water, and other public services.
According to organisers, pledges made at the summit will result in 200,000 fewer women dying in pregnancy and childbirth, more than 110 million fewer unintended pregnancies, over 50 million fewer abortions and nearly 3 million fewer babies dying in their first year of life.
The British government made a commitment of more than 500 million pounds (over $800 million) over the next 8 years, doubling its previous donations.
The European Union pledged €23 million ($28 million) while the U.S. didn’t add any funding to the $640 million it had previously pledged.
More than 20 developing countries also made commitments to increase public spending on family planning and to improve women’s rights in order to give women and girls better access to contraception and control over their reproductive health.
India’s Joint Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Anuradha Gupta said India will provide universal access to family planning by 2020, while Malawi said it will raise the legal age of marriage to 18 before the end of the year.
Nigeria trebled its commitment by allocating $8.5 million to family planning over the next four years and pledged to raise contraception usage by 38 percent over the next four years.
The Zambian government committed to expand its budget for family planning by 100 percent as well as reaching out to religious leaders opposing contraception initiatives, said Joseph Katema, Zambia’s minister of community development and mother and child health.
Melinda Gates said her foundation will pour $560 million into family planning by 2020, doubling its previous contribution.
Speaking at the summit, Gates stressed the importance of affordable contraception – “or it won’t get out to women” - as well as providing easy access to it.
Across the developing world more than 200 million women want modern contraception, but cannot get it. As a result, some 60 million unwanted pregnancies happen every year, according to experts.
Justin Forsyth, chief executive of the charity Save the Children, praised governments of developing countries for bringing difficult cultural issues such as child marriage into the conversation and acknowledged the summit’s success in putting family planning onto the international agenda.
“It's an issue that has been long neglected, so it's a welcome surprise that so many substantial pledges were made today,” he said in a statement.
More than 100,000 women die needlessly every year because they do not have access to contraception, according to a Lancet report launched ahead of the summit.
By adopting modern family planning methods, mothers can delay childbearing and space births, therefore reducing maternal and child mortality. Access to contraception also enhances economic development by boosting women’s ability to work and invest in their children’s health and education.
The social stigma and discrimination associated with contraception in many countries, and the accountability for how funds are spent for family planning services are pressing issues that shouldn’t be overlooked, one rights group warned.
"This political commitment to billions of dollars to invest in women and girls access to family planning is groundbreaking," said Gauri van Gulik, women's rights advocate for Human Rights Watch. "But if the implementation ignores the structural problems that lie behind what it is trying to fix, like discrimination and lack of accountability, this large injection of money risks becoming part of the problem as opposed to the solution."
On this matter, the UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said that a task force will be appointed to “monitor what is happening and will make absolutely clear whether and how people are standing by the commitment they have made today.”
Cameron said, “This aid is transparent and direct, it reaches the people who need it, and doesn’t get caught up in bureaucracy.”
(Editing by Lisa Anderson)
Source: Trust Law