Each year an estimated 74.4 million unintended pregnancies occur in the developing world; primarily among women who had an unmet need for effective contraception. Family planning programs, which provide counseling, services and contraceptive supplies, empower couples to make important decisions about the timing and spacing of their children. By choosing the healthiest times for childbirth, mothers give themselves and their children a better chance to live long, healthy lives. This week at the Women Deliver conference, I join public health professionals from around the world who are discussing family planning as one of the core strategies to save women’s lives.
When we think about who plays a role in improving access to family planning, we often think of the nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers who administer contraceptives. Warehouse managers and truck drivers, on the other hand, might not immediately spring to mind. However, these individuals play a vital role in ensuring contraceptive security, which exists when every person is able to choose, obtain, and use quality contraceptives and condoms whenever he or she needs them.
On the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT we work alongside USAID and other partners every day to strengthen health programs by improving the supply chains in-country. In our work we often say “No Product. No Program.” What we mean by that is ensuring an adequate supply of contraceptives is critical to the success of family planning programs. These programs are most effective when healthcare providers have commodities on hand for women who want and need them.
In fiscal year 2012, on behalf of USAID, the project supplied a range of contraceptive methods to 45 countries, including over—
- 751 million male condoms
- 64.6 million oral contraceptives, and
- 36.3 million injectables
- 1.6 million IUD’s
- 1 million implants
Coupled with comprehensive counseling and services, these commodities prevented an estimated 15,000 maternal deaths and 230,000 infant deaths.
Despite major gains, we know that 222 million women still have an unmet need for family planning, meaning they want to delay or avoid pregnancy but aren’t using a modern method of family planning. Meeting this need for modern contraceptives will save 79,000 mothers and 1.1 million infants. Ensuring and sustaining contraceptive availability at this scale is a substantial task that requires more effective and efficient supply chains, coordination among the public, private and NGO sectors, engagement of civil society organizations, a willingness to go beyond ‘business as usual,’ and leadership and commitment on the part of national and international partners.
While meeting the family planning needs of women around the world happens one woman at a time, making contraceptives available to each of those women requires the concerted and coordinated efforts of individuals and organizations around the world.
View a new infographic by the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT on the important role contraceptives play in saving and improving women’s lives.
*This article was originally published by USAID IMPACTblog on May 29, 2013.