Population Matters

Save Women’s Lives, Give Them What They Want

June 9th, 2011

Every 90 seconds somewhere in the world a woman dies due to pregnancy related causes, with 99% of the victims dying in the developing world. That adds up to over 350,000 women dying every year while trying to give life and for every woman who dies 30 more suffer serious illness or debilitating injury. This is progress from 2005 where there was a woman dying every minute, and 535,000 dying every year. However, the maternal mortality rate is not declining fast enough to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) which calls for reducing the maternal mortality rate ¾ below the 1990 level by 2015. The 34% decline in maternal mortality equates to an average annual decline of 2.3%. In order to meet MDG5 that rate of annual decline will have to be increased to 5.5%, more than double the current rate.

The good news is that we know what needs to be done in order to lower the maternal mortality rate.  One important but easy step in meeting MDG5 is ensuring that we meet MDG5b, which calls for universal access to reproductive health care by 2015. Family planning, in particular, will help to lower the maternal mortality rate by reducing pregnancy-related deaths.  By investing in family planning internationally, we can prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions, and save the lives of mothers and their children. For every $100 million invested in family planning 2.1 million unintended pregnancies are prevented, 825,000 abortions are prevented, 70,000 infant deaths are prevented, and 4,000 mother lives are saved.

Right now there are 215 million women of reproductive age who would like to time or space their births differently or stop having children all together but they are not using modern contraceptives and are said to have an unmet need for family planning. By meeting the existing unmet need, maternal deaths would be reduced by around 35 percent and the number of abortions in developing countries would be reduced by 70 percent.  Investing in international family planning saves lives.

Not only does family planning save lives, it is cost effective. According to the “Adding it Up” report released last year by the Guttmacher Institute and United Nations Population Fund, it would cost an additional $3.6 billion to cover the costs of providing family planning services to all women in developing countries who need them.  Doing so, however, would reduce the cost of providing maternal and newborn care to all who need them by $5.1 billion–a net savings of $1.5 billion.

So if family planning saves lives and investing in family planning saves money, why are we not investing more in international family planning? Make your voice heard and show your support for international family planning services. Sign the Million for a Billion petition, which asks Congress to make sure women internationally have access to family planning by increasing U.S. funding for family planning and reproductive health programs to $1Billion: http://www.millionforabillion.com.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

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