Today I joined leaders from around the world at the London Summit on Family Planning to commit to the goal of providing 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries with lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020. This Summit comes at a crucial time, following up to last month’s Child Survival Call to Action. Convened by the governments of the United States, Ethiopia and India, the Call to Action brought over 1,000 representatives from around the world to Washington, DC to rally behind the goal of ending preventable child death. We know that this effort begins even before a child is born. By enabling mothers and families to time and space the birth of their children, family planning could save the lives of more than 1.6 million children under five annually.
To support the aspirations of the London Summit, the United States commits the power of its voice and example, as well as resources, technical support and leadership that will lead to new and innovative ways of substantively reducing unmet need for family planning. Over the course of several decades, the U.S. has provided roughly 50 percent of total donor funding in family planning.
In the last four years alone—during the Obama Administration—we’ve increased our commitments 40 percent, going from $470 million in 2008 to $640 million today.This past year, we reached more than 84 million women—helping to prevent 15,000 maternal deaths and save the lives of more than 230,000 infants.
I recently took a trip to Yemen where I saw the great challenges the nation faces in terms of both high rates of fertility and mortality. In Yemen, seventy-five percent of the population is younger than 30. Driven by a fertility rate of about 5.5 children per woman—nearly twice the regional average—each new generation is larger than the last. At best, these demographic challenges pose a roadblock for economic growth and global health gains. At worst, they interrupt the stability of societies—putting regional security and prosperity at risk. We need to make strategic investments today to get ahead of the curve and seize unprecedented opportunities in development. One of the biggest opportunities comes when you couple family planning with real reductions in child mortality—leading to an important shift in population that, with appropriate investments in education and job creation, can fuel as much as two percentage points of GDP growth for years.
Today, we’re building on our legacy of research and development to create a new generation of contraceptive methods that are easier to provide, easier to use, and more affordable. For example, we’re partnering with DFID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others to expand access to the popular “depo-in-uniject” contraceptive in five to six countries. Packing an all-in-one, single dose, this innovative contraceptive can be provided right in the home.
USAID currently runs the largest and most effective global supply chain system in family planning commodities. But we need to work closely with our private sector partners and country governments to drive even greater efficiencies so we can avoid stock-outs and reach particularly vulnerable women in rural and urban settings. And we need to strengthen our partnerships, working closely with local actors, private firms and faith based organizations to fully integrate family planning services into HIV and maternal and child health programs.
Over the next eight years, our work to support more than 84 million women annually across 42 countries will provide for 675 million user-years of coverage. This is in addition to all the extraordinary commitments made at the Summit today. But combining our efforts, our support will ensure that, in 2020, 380 million women in the poorest countries of the world will have the power to determine the size of their families. By 2020, our work together will be helping prevent the deaths of 1.3 million children under the age of five—more than 15 percent of all preventable child deaths.
Alongside critical investments in education and economic opportunity for women and girls, voluntary family planning paves the way for peaceful, more prosperous communities. Ultimately, we know that long-term, sustainable development will only be possible when women and girls enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential.
I am excited with the level of energy and commitment surrounding this Summit and look forward to working together to lay the foundation for a brighter future.
Learn more about USAID’s work in family planning.