Statement from Family Planning 2030 on the Future of Family Planning
PHOTO BY Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment
Every woman and girl, no matter where she lives, should have the freedom and ability to use lifesaving, life-changing modern contraception. This was our fundamental objective when Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) was launched in 2012 at the London Summit on Family Planning.
Since then, remarkable progress has been made. As of July 2020, 320 million women and girls were using a modern method of contraception in 69 of the world’s lowest-income countries, 60 million more than when FP2020 was created. In FP2020 countries in Africa, the number of modern contraceptive users has grown by 66% since 2012.
The UK has been steadfast in its commitment to family planning and, in 2019, was the world’s second-largest donor, making up 25% of total bilateral funding for family planning, its highest level since FP2020 was created. The UK’s leadership has helped demonstrate the importance of prioritizing family planning as a critical intervention for healthy communities and its benefits — including improvements in education, reductions of child marriage, and improved maternal and child health — to reach our shared global commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is deeply troubling, therefore, to see the UK make drastic cuts in its financial support for family planning, one of the best investments in global development. In April, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) learned that the UK would be cutting its support for its flagship program, the UNFPA Supplies Partnership by 85% and its core funding support by 60% in 2021. The UNFPA Supplies Partnership increases equitable access to high-quality modern contraceptives and life-saving maternal health medicines as a part of family planning programs in over 50 countries around the world. With these funds the UNFPA Supplies Partnership would have helped prevent around 14.6 million unintended pregnancies, 4.3 million unsafe abortions, and 250,000 maternal and child deaths.
UNFPA is not the only agency to have been affected by the UK’s cut in family planning assistance. The International Planned Parenthood Federation and MSI Reproductive Choices have reported deep cuts that will force them to close or severely curtail programs. In addition, we anticipate reductions in bilateral funding for country family planning programs, multiplying the impact of cuts to global institutions.
It is not only the UK cutting its financial support for family planning, however, that is worrisome. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to immense disruption across a range of health services. Around the world the economic impact of COVID-19 has already begun to present immense challenges to family planning programs. Many national governments are facing the prospects of reducing domestic funding for family planning programs in order to prioritize COVID-19 response. Households whose livelihoods have been affected may be unable to pay for services, and private sector family planning providers are facing revenue shortages, forcing closing of clinics and staff layoffs.
"Tragically, disease outbreaks have always had a gendered impact, threatening women’s access to health services. We have witnessed this in the past with Zika and Ebola epidemics. Disrupting access to family planning needs has both short-term and long-term consequences for women’s health. We must learn from past experiences and ensure that essential services like family planning are not compromised at the expense of health emergencies." - Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India
Taken together, these cuts will create significant barriers to the millions of people who want and need access to vital contraceptive services. Family planning helps adolescents finish school, delay marriage, and avoid dangerous early pregnancies. When women and adolescents can determine whether and when to become pregnant, their pregnancies are safer and their children healthier. Without strong investments in family planning, there will be lasting consequences that will take months and years to fully comprehend.
As women and girls continue to suffer the worst impact of the pandemic, we must accelerate our efforts to strengthen and expand family planning programs. Our community has proven that when we work together, across borders and sectors, we can truly change the course of progress on family planning. Now more than ever, we need to invest in transformative access to modern contraceptives.
As we look ahead to the Decade of Action on the SDGs and the Family Planning 2030 partnership, we cannot turn our backs on women and girls. The quest for a more peaceful, prosperous, and equitable world is inextricably linked with the rights of these individuals, and their ability to shape and make their own choices about family planning. As countries are planning their new family planning commitments, donor government funding, resources, and support are crucial to continuing this essential work. We can leave no one behind.