Press Release

No woman should die giving birth. Babies must survive and thrive: The urgent need to invest in family planning, maternal and newborn health care

11 July 2017

Bangkok, July 11, 2017 – Family planning is not only a fundamental human right that empowers individuals, especially women and girls, and helps save the lives of women and newborns, it is vital to economic prosperity and nation-building in the Asia-Pacific region and the world over.

This is the key message from the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, on World Population Day 2017, whose theme “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations” celebrates and reiterates the crucial role of voluntary family planning within the wider umbrella of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights including maternal and newborn health care.

A rights-based approach

The rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health and family planning that UNFPA has long advocated for has produced extraordinary results.

In recent decades, millions more women in Asia-Pacific and globally have become empowered to have fewer children and to start their families later in life, giving them an opportunity to complete their schooling, safeguard their health, earn a better living, escape the trap of poverty and, in the process, strengthen gender equality as well.

A person’s ability to plan the timing and size of her or his family closely determines the realization of other rights, with a huge impact on the health and well-being of women, girls and newborns as well,” explained Yoriko Yasukawa, Director of the UNFPA Asia-Pacific Regional Office based in Bangkok.   “Unfortunately, it’s a right that many have had to fight for, and still requires vigorous advocacy and broader support – especially at a time of rising political and sociocultural conservatism that seeks to restrict people, especially women, from freely deciding whether and when and how many children to have.

Unmet need for effective contraception remains high, with often tragic results

Modern contraceptive use has nearly doubled worldwide from 36 per cent in 1970 to 64 per cent in 2016. Yet, some 214 million women in developing nations who want to avoid pregnancy are currently not using safe and effective family planning methods. 

Most of the women with an unmet demand for contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries on earth.  The largest absolute number of such women – 70 million -- is found in South Asia. 

Currently each year, 308,000 women die from causes linked to pregnancy or childbirth globally – some 85,000 in Asia-Pacific alone.  As well, an estimated 2.7 million babies die within the first month of life -- 1.3 million in Asia-Pacific. 

Modest investments for lifesaving outcomes

This crisis can be addressed by providing essential family planning supplies and services along with wider maternal and newborn care, and helping save millions of lives in the process.  For this, the investments needed are relatively modest. 

The Guttmacher Institute’s 2017 report “Adding it up” estimates that spending US $8.40 per person per year in developing regions on contraception and maternal and newborn health, for a total of $52.5 billion per year would result in:

  • 67 million few unintended pregnancies
  • 23 million fewer unplanned births
  • 36 million fewer abortions
  • 2.2 million fewer newborn deaths (from 2.7 million to 541,000)
  • 224,000 fewer maternal deaths (from 308,000 to 84,000)

Investing in contraceptive services substantially decreases the number of unintended pregnancies, thereby reducing the cost of maternal and newborn health. For each additional dollar spent on contraceptive services above the current level, the cost of pregnancy-related care will be reduced by $2.30.

Family planning and the SDGs: Fighting poverty, achieving gender equality, strengthening nations

This year’s World Population Day theme has all the more resonance under the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals,” noted Yasukawa.

Achieving universal access to optimal family planning and sexual and reproductive health services is a key target under the SDGs, building on the significant gains achieved in recent decades, but also acknowledging the significant gaps that remainUltimately, no woman should die giving birth and her baby must survive and thrive. Investing in family planning and maternal and newborn health is vital.

Family planning is critical to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 1, to end poverty. It is also key to achieving other Goals, such as ending hunger as well as promoting good health and gender equality.

Thailand is a strong example of a country that embraced family planning seriously several decades ago. The average number of children per family has dropped from seven to less than two. Along with other policies and efforts to improve the lives of its citizens, including universal health care, greater access to education and strengthening the role of women in the workplace, Thailand has been an Asian success story on many fronts. 

Thailand’s achievements have been remarkable, with best practices on family planning shared with a number of developing countries,” said Dr Wassana Im-Em, Assistant Representative for UNFPA Thailand.

The country is now focusing on the challenges that remain - for example, by reducing its teen pregnancy rate by seeking to implement genuinely comprehensive sexuality education at an early age, increasing access to contraception for young persons, and ensuring young mothers can complete their education to better achieve their full potential. These are the key elements covered in the Act for Prevention and Solution of the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem enacted a year ago. Investments in voluntary family planning under an inclusive and respectful framework truly help lead to prosperity for all, helping fulfill the SDGs’ pledge to leave no one behind.

 

Resources for Media

Media Contacts