Health Milestone #1: London Summit on Family Planning Ignites $2.6 billion in Commitments
Mark Lowcock, Permanent Secretary, UKAID
The London Summit on Family Planning was a momentous day that surpassed expectations, with global leaders coming together to make commitments that will provide 120 million more girls and women in the poorest countries who want to be able to decide whether and when to have a child with contraceptive information, services and supplies.
The London Summit, which the British Government co-hosted with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, together with the U.S. Government and the United Nations Population Fund, will reignite progress on voluntary family planning, which has largely stagnated in recent years. Prime Minister David Cameron summed up its purpose in his keynote speech, when he said that, if we are going to be successful in tackling poverty, women have be able to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children to have. This is a choice that approximately 220 million women in the developing world who want to delay, space or limit their pregnancies do not have. The consequences are staggering: 80 million unintended pregnancies a year, 30 million unplanned births and 40 million abortions.
Behind each statistic is a personal story. The message I hear when I meet women in developing countries is unequivocal: they want the power to plan their lives and to invest in the children they already have before having more.
The commitments made at the Summit will help make this hope a reality. By enabling 120 million more women and girls in the poorest 69 countries to use contraceptives by 2020, more than 110 million unintended pregnancies will be avoided and more than 200,000 fewer women and girls will die in pregnancy and childbirth – which is equivalent to preventing one death every 20 minutes.
Family planning is often seen as a controversial issue that all too often gets bundled together with population control. Control and coercion are not, and have never been, part of this agenda. Empowerment and giving women access to family planning information, supplies and services most definitely are. As the Prime Minister set out in his speech, family planning enables women to fulfill their own potential and is an essential first step toward growth, equality and development.
While the support of donors is vital, it is the commitments made by developing country governments for the women and girls in their countries that will drive the transformational changes needed. For the London Summit to be a success, it was imperative that these nations committed to tackling the many barriers which prevent girls and women from using contraception.
More than 20 countries made substantial promises to deliver on financial, policy and programming, to address both supply and demand-side barriers, such as working to change laws, and to increase social acceptance at the community level. For example, India will ensure free services and commodities through public health facilities for 200 million couples; Nigeria will train frontline health workers to deliver a range of contraceptives; the Ethiopian government will work with NGO and private providers to meet the family planning needs of married and unmarried adolescent girls; and Senegal has committed to making family planning a national priority, including taking action to improve the supply chain and eliminate stock-outs of contraceptives.
The commitments made in London mark the start of a movement that will improve the lives of millions of girls and women around the globe. But we are clear that this is only the beginning and that a collective effort will be required to maintain the momentum generated by the London Summit.
Dr. Gary Darmstadt, Director of Family Health and Dr. Chris Elias, President of Global Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The London Summit on Family Planning demonstrated the impact that the world community can achieve when it comes together to address an urgent global health issue. In recent years, family planning has been less prominent on the global health agenda, despite the fact that an estimated 220 million women and girls in developing countries lack access to contraceptives and other family planning services.
What the London Summit did was put the spotlight back on family planning. More than 150 leaders from donor and developing countries, international agencies, civil society, foundations and the private sector pledged U.S.$2.6 billion toward a plan that will enable an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries to have access to contraceptive information, services and supplies. Leaders from 24 developing countries committed to tackle the policy, financing and delivery barriers that have prevented women from accessing these services in their countries in order to reach national-level goals. The private sector is engaged and committed, testing new pricing models with volume guarantees never before used for contraceptives. Efforts to coordinate procurement and donor support to country programs are forcing a different conversation and approach to family planning.
By 2020, this initiative will result in 200,000 fewer women and girls dying in pregnancy and childbirth, more than 100 million fewer unintended pregnancies, more than 50 million fewer abortions, and nearly 3 million fewer infants dying in their first year of life. The economic impact will also be seen, as studies show that every U.S.$1 invested in family planning services yields up to U.S.$6 in savings on health, housing, water and other public services.
The London Summit was a game-changer for family planning and the rights of women and girls around the world. One of the things that impressed us was the willingness of partners to transcend ideological differences. Everyone understood that we were coming together to support something fundamental: the right of all women to determine freely and for themselves whether, when and how many children they will have.
The Summit put women at the heart of the global health agenda. Achieving the intended outcomes will require the continued collaboration and commitment of all partners involved in women’s health. Seeing how the global community came together at the London Summit, we’re optimistic that we can do that so millions of women and girls around the world have an equal opportunity to plan their families and achieve their full potential.December 14, 2012