Family planning is discussed in our HMHB sessions in PNG.
Australia’s halving of its aid funding for family planning in the past three years is attracting plenty of scrutiny leading into the international Family Planning Summit 2017 in London.
Five years on since the last global Summit in 2012, Australia’s aid funding for family planning has fallen from AUD$46 million to AUD$23 million, according to recent figures from the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget.
Burnet Institute has joined with members of the International Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Consortium (ISRHR Consortium) in calling for the Australian government to reinstate this life-saving funding, and commit an additional AUD$10million each year over the next three years.
Burnet’s Program Director of Maternal and Child Health, Dr Elissa Kennedy said the cut in funding was a disappointing outcome given Australia’s strong commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment through its foreign aid program, and commitments made at the 2012 London Family Planning Summit.
“Meeting the global demand for contraception is critical for women’s health and for the health of their families.” Dr Kennedy said.
“Enabling women to time, space and limit their pregnancies is one of the most cost-effective interventions in global health and development, with far reaching impacts for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
“Unfortunately we’ve seen repeated cuts to the foreign aid budget in recent years, and similarly funding for family planning programs has halved in the past three years.
“Australia could certainly do more to take a lead, especially in the Asia-Pacific region where we have very high rates of unmet need for family planning in some countries.”
Dr Kennedy said that while there had been some impressive progress since the first Summit in 2012, the 2017 Family Planning Summit on 11 July was an opportunity to strengthen commitments to reach the 214 million women and girls who want to avoid pregnancy but are not using effective contraception. Doing so would have a major impact on the health of women and children.
“Up to a third of women who die each year as a result of pregnancy didn’t actually want to be pregnant at that time,” Dr Kennedy said.
More than 800 women and girls die every day from preventable pregnancy and childbirth causes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“This is an enormous tragedy. If they had had access to contraception which was appropriate and acceptable to them, those deaths could have been prevented,” she said.
“It is estimated that meeting the demand for family planning could prevent 76,000 maternal deaths every year, and avert 600,000 deaths of newborns.”
Globally around 40 per cent of pregnancies in low- and middle-income countries – about 89 million pregnancies a year – are unintended. The statistics are also staggering for young girls. More than 16 million girls aged 15-19 years and more than one million girls under 15 years of age give birth each year, according to the WHO. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth remain one of the leading causes of death of adolescent girls in low and middle-income countries.
“In addition, enabling women and girls to plan their pregnancies contributes to increasing girls’ education, creates greater opportunities for women to be engaged in paid employment, and has economic benefits for families and countries,” Dr Kennedy said.
“Women and adolescent girls low- and middle-income countries face many obstacles that contribute to high unmet need for contraception: poor access to health services; unavailability of contraceptive commodities; financial barriers; judgmental health provider attitudes; conservative cultural taboos or religious beliefs; opposition from partners or family members; and insufficient knowledge about family planning.
“Burnet is working to increase access to family planning by improving our understanding of the needs and barriers that women and girls face, as well as developing and testing new tools and strategies to improve knowledge and increase the quality and accessibility of services.”
On 11 July 2017, the UK Department for International Development will co-host a global summit on family planning in London with the United Nations Population Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Summit will bring together policy makers, foundations, the private sector, researchers and youth advocates from around the world. Members of the International Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Consortium (ISRHR Consortium) are calling on the Australian government to reaffirm their commitment to family planning at the Summit. Burnet Institute is a founding member of the ISRHR Consortium - a partnership of non-government organisations committed to advancing universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, with a focus on Asia and the Pacific.
Follow the outcomes of the Summit via Burnet’s social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter #HerFuture