This year International Women's Day coincides with the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic pledge to make the recognition and fulfillment of women's rights a global priority. The declaration makes clear that reproductive health is critical to the well-being of women and men, asserts all people's right to have access to family planning information and services, and underscores the importance of maternal and newborn health care.
As political leaders, policymakers and advocates gather at the United Nations to assess global progress on these issues, they will have at their disposal a clear roadmap to guide future investments in global reproductive health--a December 2009 report from the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) documenting the enormous benefits that accrue from increased funding for both family planning and pregnancy-related and newborn care.
The report found that doubling the world's current annual spending of $12 billion on family planning and maternal and newborn health programs in developing nations would radically cut the number of mothers and babies that die each year--maternal deaths would drop by 70%, and newborn deaths would be reduced by 44%. A host of other health, societal and economic benefits would follow.
Significantly, these dramatic improvements can only be achieved by simultaneously investing in family planning and maternal and newborn health care. As the report documents, every dollar invested in family planning boosts the overall effectiveness of each dollar spent on maternal and newborn health care. A combined investment achieves the same dramatic results--for $1.5 billion less than investing in maternal and newborn health care services alone.
But getting there will require a true and sustained global commitment. Approximately 215 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using an effective method of contraception, and only about half of the 123 million women who give birth each year receive the antenatal, delivery and newborn care they need. Millions of those women who experience major complications get no treatment and either die or suffer from severe and debilitating conditions, such as obstetric fistula.
It is clear that investing in women has vast benefits, not just for individuals and families, but for societies as a whole. It can truly transform the future of developing nations.
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