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Family Planning Conference Brings New Funding and Declarations of Support

By: Joanna Hoffman, Special Projects Manager at Women Deliver

Yesterday, at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning, Senegal’s Minister of Health announced his country’s pledge to double its investment in family planning, while the British Department for International Development (DFID) pledged an additional £35m in funding for family planning programs in developing countries. These two groundbreaking announcements have been pivotal moments at the global conference in Dakar, Senegal, where over 1,500 participants have gathered to share best practices.

Senegal’s funds are designated to increase contraceptive supplies, improve maternal health facilities and increase the number of midwives in health clinics. This initiative aims to increase contraceptive prevalence from 12% to 45%, and to half the country’s maternal mortality rate; currently, at 400 deaths per 100,000 births. “At the end of the day, family planning is a development issue… African governments need to provide financing from their own pockets to provide [it],” said Senegal’s Minister of Health and Prevention, Moudou Diagne Fada.  

DFID’s aid is designed to reach the countries that need it most. It funds a program through the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides over 1.6 million contraceptive implants to women across the developing world, and will support a rapid response-style, which will obtain and disseminate up to a six-month supply of hormonal contraceptives and condoms to countries where stocks are low. This is particularly needed in countries such as Mali, where only 8% of women have access to modern contraceptives, and Chad, where only 1.7% of women have access.

Stephen O’Brien, Development Minister in the UK, commented that providing access to family planning is central to DFID’s overarching policy and efforts to prioritize girls and women, first and foremost. "You get it right for girls and women – you get it right for development," he noted. Melinda Gates echoed this sentiment in a video address during the conference’s opening ceremony, stating, “Small investments in family planning pay huge dividends for women and their families.” She pledged her continued support for family planning services, as did US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who wrote in a letter to attendees that, “… our bottom line is and must remain the empowerment of women and young people to control their own sexual and reproductive choices.”

Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5b aims to reach universal access to family planning for all citizens around the world. This is a critical step to reaching MDG 5 itself -- reducing maternal deaths.  Currently, over 215 million girls and women who want to avoid or delay pregnancy do not have access to family planning, and each year, 358,000 women die from pregnancy-related complications. By ensuring universal access to family planning, maternal deaths could be reduced by up to one-third.

To read the official press release on DFID’s pledge, please click here.

(Video provided by: Gates Foundation)

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