How $350 million funding will impact family planning

Stakeholders in global efforts to advance family planning and access to reproductive health services have welcomed the over $350-million pledged towards global family planning interventions.

Three major donors—Canada, the United Kingdom (UK) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed the resources to fund family planning services in the world.

Announced at the fifth International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali, which ends today, the financing is expected to help scale up access to reproductive health and family planning services by women in developing countries.

Jose “Oying” G. Rimon II, the Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said it was very crucial for complementing national family planning programmes.

“Country governments are leading the way in making critical investments in local family planning programmes, and donor funding can complement these efforts to ensure that adolescents and women living in the hardest-to-reach places can prevent unwanted pregnancy and plan for their futures,” he told The New Times.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose Institute for Population and Reproductive Health co-hosted the family planning summit in Kigali together with the Government of Rwanda, announced a $18-million fund.

The fund will be managed under the United Nations Population Fund’s thematic programme dedicated to expanding access to family planning, UNFPA Supplies, for the Ouagadougou Partnership countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

Under the Ouagadougou Partnership, family planning efforts will be made with initiatives that enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020 and accelerate progress in the use of family planning services in targeted countries.

Of the Gates funding announced on Tuesday, $15 million will be used for a commodity matching fund while $3 million will be used for technical assistance.

The commodity matching fund will allocate two dollars for every additional dollar that these supported countries invest into family planning from domestic resources, based on the previous year’s allocation.

As for the UK government, it announced that, through its Department for International Development (DfID), it will invest over £200 million (approximately $260 million) in a new flagship programme called Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH).

WISH will be implemented by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Marie Stopes International (MSI), both UK registered charities, and will reach 27 countries across Africa and South Asia.

IPPF’s Director General Dr Alvaro Bermejo said the WISH programme would transform lives by putting women at the heart of healthcare.

“Women and girls – of all ages, places, income and education – must have access to high quality, voluntary family planning care and information,” he said.

WISH will ensure that six million couples in Africa and South Asia can reliably gain access to life-saving voluntary contraception in some of the world’s poorest countries every year of the programme.

The Chief Executive Officer of MSI, Simon Cooke, said that through the WISH programme under the UK aid support, the charity’s partners will be able to bring quality sexual and reproductive health services to millions of women in some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities.

“With this landmark investment in women and girls, the UK Government is creating the right conditions to drive multiple other areas of development, from increasing the number of girls completing education to enabling couples and families in poverty to maximise their earning potential. We applaud DFID for its continued support for this vital and life-changing work,” he said.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development of Canada, announced up to Can$104.4 million ($78.8 million) in funding for projects that take a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world.

The rights to be supported by Canada include universal access to family planning and access to safe and legal abortion.

The investment is part of Canada’s $650 million commitment to help bridge the funding shortfall for sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls globally, which the Government announced in March 2017.

Specifically, Canada’s support will focus on providing comprehensive sexuality education, strengthening reproductive health services, and investing in family planning and contraceptives.

The Canada-sponsored programmes under the announcement made in Kigali will help prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, including early and forced marriages and female genital mutilation and cutting, and support the right to choose safe and legal abortion, as well as access to post-abortion care.

“Women’s rights begin with the right for all women and adolescents to be in control of their bodies and make their own decisions,” Minister Bibeau said last year while announcing the Canadian support to global family planning efforts.

Nearly 4000 delegates at the on-going four-day family planning meeting in Kigali, who include political leaders, scientists, researchers, religious leaders, policymakers, advocates, and youth representatives, are sharing best practices and discussing next concrete steps to achieve global family planning goals.

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