Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is an important part of managing to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). SRHR, maternal health and gender equality are core elements of human dignity and are central to human development.
Demand on family planning is rising. Two trends will likely drive up demand for contraceptives in the future. First, the number of women of reproductive age (15–49) will increase by 10% between 2007 and 2015 and by a further 8% between 2015 and 2025. Second, contraceptive needs are expected to rise as increasing numbers of women want to have smaller families. As a result, increased investment in contraceptive services will become even more crucial.
Providing the contraceptive supplies and services required by women worldwide would cost $3.9 billion per year. Most attention has been focussed on HIV/AIDS in recent years, while funding for both family planning and reproductive health has decreased. Ensuring access to SRHR, contraceptives and family planning would improve people’s overall health in the developing world and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity (increasing levels of safe pregnancy and delivery, freedom from sexual violence and infections; decreasing high-risk pregnancies and unsafe abortions, and achieving smaller families). Many of the conditions that result in maternal death or ill health can be treated or managed safely with proper care.
Many women in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere are having more children than they want to. In Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda and Yemen, women have on average, 1-2 more children than they would have wanted. Reducing unplanned births and family size would save on public-sector spending for health, water, sanitation and social services and reduce pressure on scarce natural resources, making social and economic development goals easier to achieve.
Reducing unsafe abortions: WHO estimates that 20 million unsafe clandestine abortions occur each year, resulting in an estimated 78,000 maternal deaths, If women were able to avoid the unplanned pregnancies that end in unsafe abortion, both their survival chances and their long-term reproductive health status would improve. Reducing unintended pregnancies, particularly among adolescents, would improve educational and employment opportunities for women, which would in turn contribute to improving the status of women, increasing family savings, reducing poverty and spurring economic growth.
Prevention and treatment programs thus deliver big dividends in economic development in addition to the benefits they bring to individuals and families. Although both are essential, it is 28 times more cost-effective to prevent a new HIV infection now than to provide antiretroviral therapy later.
Improving Reproductive Health
- United Nations Population Fund
Ms. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Conference in 2004
Sharon Camp, President of The Alan Guttmacher Institute, UNFPA Conference in 2004