Saving and changing children’s lives is our job. Fighting for aid that does this is one of the most effective ways we can make a difference. That’s why we’ve been pushing the British government to continue funding family planning – one of the best ways to protect women and children’s health
30,000 teenage girls
This week, we’ve released new analysis showing that 30,000 teenage girls a year – that’s one every 20 minutes – die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. The mortality rate for those born to mothers under 20 years old is 30% higher than to mothers between 20 and 29.
For those girls who survive their pregnancy and labour, life as a teenage mum in the poorest countries often means dropping out of education. This means a lifetime with fewer opportunities and significantly less control over their and their children’s futures.
Most births to teenage girls in low-income countries take place within marriage. Girls who are married very young often have limited access to family planning information, education and services.
They also face particular challenges in making their own informed decisions about sexual relations and pregnancy. And they are more vulnerable to violence and coercion, with potentially devastating consequences for their health and lives.
Now is the time
With a major Family Planning Summit happening in London, now is the time to make sure we are doing all we can to ensure everyone can access family planning services. We must champion and promote the right of women and girls around the world to make free and informed choices.
Access to effective, voluntary and safe family planning is vital to the health and survival of women, children and adolescents. It is a fundamental part of the right to health. And it is necessary for women’s rights and gender equality.
Our latest briefing discusses the evidence in more detail, but the story here is simple: women should be able to decide if and when to have children, how many and with whom. Countries that guarantee women’s comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights have better health and development outcomes than countries that neglect services or deny those rights.
The Family Planning Summit being convened gives the world an opportunity to look back on what has been achieved since 2012, when London last played host to a global summit on this issue.
A record to be proud of
The story here is a positive one: compared to 2012, an additional 30.2 million women and girls are using modern contraception. Fewer girls are dying. But if we want to hit the original pledge – of reaching an additional 120 million girls by 2020 – we need faster progress.
The British government has a track record it should be proud of here. In the last 5 years, UK aid has helped an additional 8.5 million girls and women access family planning in over 20 developing countries.
This has helped avert 2.6 million additional unintended pregnancies, and saved the lives of 3,000 additional women. This has also prevented the trauma of 32,000 additional still births and 19,000 additional newborn deaths.
What Priti Patel can do
This leadership is what makes Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for International Development, well placed to do the next hard yards: reaching the most vulnerable, including adolescent girls and the girls and women caught up in humanitarian crises.
We will also need to make sure that family planning is integrated in efforts towards Universal Health Coverage. This means making sure that everybody who needs family planning services, and not just those who can pay, can access them.
Tomorrow’s meeting has a big agenda, but there is also a big prize on offer. It is estimated that for every £1 spent on family planning, £6 is opened up to be spent on health, education and other basic services for children and families.
Supporting countries to spend more on family planning services will be critical to saving lives, to protecting women’s and girls’ rights to make decisions about their bodies. It will also be critical to freeing up resources to be spent on other areas.
You did this
If you only read newspaper headlines you’d be forgiven for thinking aid can’t make a difference and represents terrible value for money. But the return on investment from family planning proves both these points wrong. Giving girls and women choices and opportunities frees them to change, not just their lives, but our world.
Our supporters have been with us pushing to protect it right since that first family planning summit five years ago – and we are grateful so many of you are still standing with us today. When there are so many tragic stories around it’s important to remember that British aid is a lifesaver – and that means you are too.
To hear more about our vital work and the role that UK aid plays in enabling children and their families to build a better future, sign up here.