By Anne Mugisa
BALI, INDONESIA - The International Conference on Family Planning has opened in Indonesia with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledging another US$120m for the family planning activities for the next three years.
The Foundation’s co-chair Melinda Gates announced that it will shift focus to devoting resources to private sector players by boosting their capacity to help increase family planning access in development countries.
She noted that though a lot has been achieved since the London conference in 2012 Family Planning 2020 has fallen back on its commitments to ensure that 120million girls and women access modern voluntary contraception by 2020.
The FP2020 report released in November indicated that despite progress of an additional 24.4 million women using modern contraception in the three years to 2015, it had failed to reach the targets for that period by 10million women.
Currently, the report points out 290.6million are women using modern contraception.
In Uganda, the report states 334,000 more women had been added on to those already using modern family planning methods but the unmet need still persist at 35.7% of the married women who need the services.
The figures which include the unmarried women are not included but FP2020 indicated these will be included in the next report which means the numbers could be more.
Speaking in a televised address, Melinda Gates, however, said globally the poorest of girls and women are the bulk of those left out. “We will put more money in advocacy. We will devote recourses to choices… Large populations of youth are about to enter the reproductive age group and need services.
The magnitude of the challenge is great… But the reward of success is greater,” Gates said at the opening ceremony in the Indonesian tourists resort city of Bali.
Christopher Elias, President of the Global Development, Bill and Gates Foundation noted that unplanned pregnancies are jeopardizing chances of girls and women to transform their lives and families.
He said in the next three years, the Foundation will prioritize to support for policies that help girls and women access family planning services so that girls stay in school and increase their chances for their development and that of their families.
He said focus will be on the quality of family planning services, through counseling, accessing a full range of contraceptive methods from which they can make informed choices from.
According to him, studies have shown that in Sub-Saharan Africa a third of women rely on the private sector for information and services and half of the women globally do. For that reason, he said, the Foundation wants to focus on that sector to reach more of these women.
“If research says the private sector is where we can reach them, that is where should put our resources…” Elias said.
He added that resources will also be focused on the urban poor because they are some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised groups. The Gates Foundation will help governments get these proven innovations off the ground.
"Each of us has a role to play. The donors should ask themselves what more can we do to help governments take family planning services the more of the women who need them.
"The government should ask themselves what more they should do to provide the services to more of the girls and women who need them…,” he added.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki moon said governments and other players must realize that family planning is a human right that unlocks opportunities for families and countries’ development and is essential attaining the newly launched SGDs.
He noted that it means fewer unintended pregnancies translating into fewer mothers and children dying, fewer abortions and miscarriages and that girls would remain in school to get better opportunities in life for themselves, children and families.
Ban Kimoon’s speech was presented by his designated representative to the conference, Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
Babatunde said if all the women in the world could work, the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would raise by US$13trillion annually. Families would be richer, their feeding and health would better and general development would go up.
“We need to get an additional 120 million girls and women to voluntarily get family planning services by 2020. This way, we will ensure that development happens. Now there are more men and women of reproductive age group than before,” Babatunde said.
He noted that there has been a decrease in funding for family planning globally. He said the funding has fallen by over US$20m below the 2013 levels almost reverting to the 2012 levels.
He appealed to governments and other the players to rededicate resources to family planning activities.
“There is a global financing crisis in family planning. But sustainability cannot be supported by the Gates Foundation alone. Sustainability must come from all the countries. Family planning is a continuous programme. It cannot be supported by donors.
He noted that 43% of maternal deaths globally occur in crisis environments and therefore there is need to target these situations.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo, said his country has dedicated resources to family planning and put in place programmes to train the planed population over time. He said this, has improved the quality of the people in Indonesia and their contribution to the country’s development through developed skills.
Indonesia, currently the fourth most populous country in the world has a fertility rate of 2.4 children per women on average, which means they still have a large group of dependent young people.
The country’s population stands at 240million people and with the reduced fertility rates, the number of people added to the population annually stands at 1.32million.
Widodo said that his government is working hard to revitalize family planning because, according to him, they “see challenges ahead because of the 1.32% population growth. He said his government now wants to promote long term methods of family planning and make them affordable or free.
According to him, doctors are trained to offer the services as well as housewives to supplement the efforts with pear education so as to increase family health programmes at village levels.
He called for increased global investment in family planning and full elimination of stigma and discrimination against women which he said undermines their confidence to seek and access services.
“We need to empower women and girls to choose when or whether to have children and to space births. I ask leaders to take real serious action because this will make the family a good place to live globally,” Widodo said.
Indonesia was chosen to host this conference because of its successes in family planning programmes which managed to reduce the fertility rates to less than three children per woman on average.
A number of entrepreneurs who have dedicated big amounts of resources to family planning, malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS were recognized and given Global Humanitarian awards.
They are: Dato Sri Dr. Tahir (Indonesian) through his Tahir Foundation; Sir Christopher Mohn (British) co-founder of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation in Britain; and Fayeeza Naqvi and her husband Arif Masood Naqvi (Pakistani), of Amani Foundation. Also recognized was Anne Patricia Sutanto (Indonesian) CE) of PT Pan Brothers tbk.