New report urges more investment to slash maternal and newborn deaths – UN

Mother and child

3 December 2009 – The more than four million maternal and newborn deaths occurring annually in developing countries could be dramatically reduced if the world doubled investment in family planning and pregnancy-related care to $24.6 billion, according to a new report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Guttmacher Institute.

The report, “Adding It Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Family Planning and Maternal and Newborn Health,” stated that scaling up investment could reduce maternal deaths by 70 per cent and newborn deaths by half.

It also found that investments in family planning boost the overall effectiveness of every dollar spent on the provision of pregnancy-related and newborn health care.

“It is a win-win situation. We know what must be done, we know what it will cost, and we now know that the needed investment is modest in relation to the vast benefits that will follow,” said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid.

“It is critical to the progress of the world’s most disadvantaged countries and regions to address the high rates of maternal and newborn death that have long been endemic. Investing simultaneously in family planning and in maternal and newborn health is cost-effective,” she said.

The report showed that meeting the need for both family planning and maternal and newborn health services would prevent the deaths of nearly 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants, reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by more than two thirds, and reduce the number of unsafe abortions by about 75 per cent.

“It’s not rocket science,” Dr. Sharon Camp, President of the Guttmacher Institute, pointed out. “Investing in a handful of basic health services, like family planning and routine delivery care, can save millions of women and babies.”

Even with the $12 billion spent a year on family planning and maternal health programmes in developing nations, 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.

The report also cited additional benefits of investing in family planning and maternal health, including increases in condom use for pregnancy prevention simultaneously curbing transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Preventing unwanted pregnancies will also increase women’s educational and employment opportunities, and enhance their social and economic status, the report added, while noting that family savings and investment would rise, spurring economic growth and reducing poverty.

“The report outlines how to best focus resources to achieve the greatest gains. Investing in women has enormous benefits, not just for individuals and families, but for societies as a whole. It can truly transform the future of developing nations,” added Dr. Camp.

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