July 11, 2012
(LONDON (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) -- Birth control efforts in developing countries have been given a "transformational" boost by new pledges of 2.6 billion dollars towards providing contraceptives to an additional 120 million women by 2020, organizers said Wednesday.
"This is transformational for the developing world," Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said at an international family planning summit in London.
The one-day meeting, hosted by the British government in conjunction with UNFPA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was attended by government representatives and aid organizations from around the world.
"What we're doing is an enormous undertaking," said Melinda Gates, who announced that her foundation would increase its financial contribution to family planning services by 560 million dollars over the next eight years.
The British government pledged a doubling of contributions to 1.3 billion pounds (2 billion dollars). The remainder of the estimated total costs of 4.3 dollars needed for the additional programme will be raised by the countries involved in the scheme.
"Inter-generational poverty could disappear," said Osotimehin, dismissing any ethical or religious objections to birth control.
With an estimated 260 million women in developing countries already using modern contraceptives, their overall number could rise to a total of 380 million by the 2020 target date.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the aim of the summit was to "empower" women and girls to help themselves.
"We're not talking about some kind of Western-imposed population control, forced abortion or sterilization," said Cameron. "We're not telling anyone what to do. We're giving women and girls the power to decide for themselves."
Cameron said the measures agreed Wednesday would avert an unintended pregnancy every two seconds over the next eight years and mean that 212,000 fewer women and girls would die in pregnancy or childbirth. They would also prevent 3 million babies dying in the first year of their lives.
The meeting heard that an estimated 220 million girls and women around the world would use contraceptives if they had access to them.
However, the lack of contraceptives resulted in over 60 million unintended pregnancies every year, while putting women at risk of death or disability during pregnancy, as well as unsafe abortions.
In 2008, there were around 14 million births to adolescent girls in developing countries, "most often before they were physically, emotionally or economically prepared," the conference heard.
"When I travel and talk to women in developing countries, they all tell me that they want access to contraceptives to be able to plan their families," Gates said.
"All women and girls should have the right to determine their own future," she added.
British aid charity Save the Children praised the summit for putting family planning on the international agenda.
"It's an issue that has been long neglected, so it's a welcome surprise that so many substantial pledges were made today," said chief executive officer Justin Forsyth.
Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH