That’s more than the population of Brazil, the 5th most populous country in the world. It’s more than the population of Mexico and the Philippines, combined.
That’s the number of women around the world who want – but do not have – access to or information about modern contraception. This number has devastating implications. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among women in their reproductive years in developing countries. Every minute, one woman dies from these complications, resulting in more than 350,000 maternal deaths per year.
These numbers are tragic, but the real tragedy is that many of these deaths could have been prevented. But there is good news – we have the power to dramatically change these statistics – and the solution is simple and achievable.
Providing access to voluntary contraception empowers women to make their own important decisions about childbearing, to get an education, and to improve the health and living conditions for themselves and their families.
By meeting the need for contraception, we could cut maternal mortality by 1/3, cut infant mortality by 10-20 percent, and the need for abortions by 70 percent. At least 250,000 maternal deaths, and as many as 1.7 million newborn deaths, would be averted if the need for both contraception and maternal and newborn health services were met.
Not only does universal access to reproductive health care save lives, it’s a sound economic investment that helps women help themselves.
Providing access to voluntary contraception empowers women to make their own important decisions about childbearing, to get an education, and to improve the health and living conditions for themselves and their families. Universal access to contraception also has the added benefit of promoting environmental sustainability, protecting valuable resources for future generations.
We know that access to reproductive health (Millennium Development Goal 5) is critical to achieving success on all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As we quickly approach the target for achieving the MDGs in 2015, unfortunately, MDG 5 has seen the least amount of progress.
That’s why Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made women’s health a cornerstone of his tenure. He spearheaded an initiative, Every Woman Every Child, which brings together a range of actors to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015.
Despite its many benefits, access to or information about contraception still faces stiff opposition. But the evidence is clear – investments in reproductive health pay enormous dividends. At the UN Foundation, we believe that investing in women’s health is one of the smartest investments that we can make – leading to stronger families and more stable, prosperous communities. Through our Universal Access Project, we are working to strengthen U.S. leadership on international reproductive health and family planning, and ensure that this issue remains at the top of the global health agenda.
We have the power to save the lives of women today, and create a better world for tomorrow.