Even with recent increases, United States funding for international family planning and reproductive health is 32% below the 1995 level. Since 1990, the number of women of reproductive age in the developing world has increased by nearly 50%. Today, almost a quarter-billion women in the developing world would like to prevent or delay pregnancy but lack access to aff ordable and appropriate modern contraceptives. As a result of this unmet need, there are approximately 80 million unintended pregnancies in the developing world each year.
Additionally, this huge unmet need contributes to a host of devastating consequences for the entire world: resource insecurity, social instability, and maternal and child death. If the United States wants to meet these and other 21st century challenges, then it must make a commitment: real investment in family planning and reproductive health.
The U.S. must invest at least $1 billion in international family planning and reproductive health programs in FY 2014. This figure represents the United States’ fair share of the total cost of meeting unmet need for family planning worldwide. It is a sound investment in our future.
Maternal and Child Survival
Every year, millions of women suffer serious complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and nearly 300,000 women die. Almost all of these deaths occur in developing countries, and at least 90% are preventable. Nations with high levels of access to reproductive health care have seen maternal and child mortality rates plummet in recent decades. Researchers estimate that universal access to contraception could reduce maternal deaths by another 30%.
Each $100 million spent on family planning means:
Countries that have received significant U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health have achieved major reductions in infant and maternal mortality. For example, in Mexico the infant mortality rate fell by more than 75% between 1970 and 2010 as the use of modern contraceptives nearly doubled and average birth rates fell by nearly two-thirds. Similar outcomes have occurred in Egypt and Indonesia. Maternal mortality rates in Egypt have dropped by more than 50% as contraceptive usage increased dramatically, from 23% in 1980 to 60% in 2008, and average birth rates declined from 6 children in 1970 to 3 children today. The challenge now is to provide a broad range of family planning options to women in countries in desperate need of these resources, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where unmet need is greatest.
Family planning, which enables users to limit and space births, has also been proven to have an enormous impact on quality of life for families around the globe. Smaller family size allows parents to invest more in their children’s educations and encourages greater equality for their daughters. There is evidence that access to family planning leads to increased educational opportunity for girls, increased social parity for women, decreased risk of HIV infection, and lower levels of poverty for families and societies as a whole.
Real investment in family planning will save the lives of women and children and improve quality of life for everyone.
By the Numbers:
- 222 million women in the developing world have an unmet need for family planning.
- Of the 44 million induced abortions worldwide every year, half are unsafe and lead to the deaths of 47,000 women.
- Universal access to family planning would lead to 1.1 million fewer infant deaths per year.
- Of the 40 countries with the highest maternal death rates, 36 are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Continuing population growth around the world is a major contributor to resource scarcity and human suffering. Population growth can lead to the destruction of forests, the spread of deserts, and the pollution and over-fishing of oceans and waterways. These environmental stresses mean that many areas of the world lack the food and water resources necessary to sustain their growing populations. The end results are resource depletion, environmental degradation, and widespread chronic malnutrition.
The population of Nigeria, the largest country in Africa, has more than tripled since 1950 and is projected to more than double again by 2050. Today, the country is losing more than 351,000 hectares of rangeland to the spread of the Sahara Desert every year. Indeed, people across northern Africa are being pressured by the encroaching desert, a process largely driven by the cutting of forests and the plowing of rangeland to make space for the growing human population.
Failure to address population growth will also hinder efforts to combat climate change. While industrialized countries currently account for the vast majority of emissions, the emissions of developing nations will increase as their economies advance and their populations continue to grow. In many countries, these increases will be unavoidable if they are to achieve a reasonable quality of life for their citizens. Slowing population growth through increased access to voluntary family planning is one way to help ease this pressure.
Real investment in family planning will protect the environment and relieve pressure on natural resources.
By the Numbers:
- More than 2 billion people live in countries without adequate water resources; by 2025, the number will grow to 3.1 billion.
- There are 925 million chronically malnourished people in the world, including one-third of all sub-Saharan Africans, and this contributes to the deaths of 5 million children under the age of five every year in the developing world.
- A 40% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world could be completely negated by population growth in the developing world.
- Empowering women with the tools and resources to time their pregnancies would provide 8-15% of the reductions needed to avert climate change.
Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history, with nearly half the world’s population under the age of 25. Ninety percent of these young people live in the developing world, many of them in countries unable to meet the most basic needs of citizens. This reality places much of the developing world at a major crossroads. Giving these young people the tools they need—access to accurate and responsible sex education and family planning and reproductive health services—to expand their opportunities for education, employment, and a healthy, productive future will not only make their lives better, it will strengthen the economic and social stability of developing nations.
Conversely, research has shown that failure to address the needs of this large and growing population is likely to leave those countries at risk of civil unrest and conflict, and have dramatic effects on the stability of the world for decades to come. Resource scarcity and other population pressures place stress on fragile governments and other social structures. Many poor countries already struggle to maintain health care, schooling, agricultural, and urban infrastructure. They also face the greatest risk of political instability.
Real investment in family planning will encourage social stability and decrease the risk of conflict.
By the Numbers:
- Young people comprise 40% of the world’s unemployed, with unemployment rates three times that of older adults (12.6% vs. 4.5%).
- The East Asian “demographic dividend”—a balancing of the age structure—was found to account for as much as one-third of the “Asian tiger” economies, helping them reduce their reliance on foreign aid and become donors themselves.
- Young people in many parts of the developing world are twice as likely as older people to have an unmet need for family planning and reproductive health services, and complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death of young women 15-19 in lowerand middle-income countries.