UN report urges family planning, stresses its economic benefit

UN report urges family planning, stresses its economic benefit

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
UN report urges family planning, stresses its economic benefit

Hürriyet photo

Providing universal access to family planning in the developing world could save lives, livelihoods and more than $11 billion in health costs per year, according to the United Nations Population Fund’s annual report, which aired yesterday.

The State of World Population 2012 report, titled “By Choice, Not By Chance,” is a 140-page argument that says currently 222 million girls and women in developing countries do not have the means to delay or plan their pregnancies.

“An estimated 222 million women lack access to reliable, high-quality family planning services, information and supplies, putting them at risk of unintended pregnancy. In developed countries too, high levels of unintended pregnancy exist, especially among adolescents, the poor and ethnic minorities,” the report read.

The U.N. agency is effectively declaring that preventing access to family planning measures, such as modern contraceptives, constitutes a human-rights infringement.

“Family planning is a human right. It must therefore be available to all who want it,” executive director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin wrote in the report’s foreword. “But clearly this right has not yet been extended to all, especially in the poorest countries,” it read.

Research has strongly established a link between family planning and improved health and personal income. One study cited by the report shows that spacing pregnancies by three to five years could reduce infant deaths by 46 percent in the developing world.

“An unintended pregnancy can endanger a woman’s health, undermine her opportunities to earn a living and trap her and her entire family in a cycle of poverty and exclusion,” the report read.

But there are massive economic gains to be made as well. Spending $4.1 million on family planning in the developing world would wipe out an estimated $5.7 billion in maternal and newborn health-care costs, according to the report.

With the $5.6 billion saved by continuing coverage for those already accessing family planning, this would mean a total savings of $11.3 billion, the report read.

The report also touched upon traditional family planning methods and praised Turkey in this regard.
“Despite the tendency to consolidate all traditional methods into a singular category, not all traditional methods are the same. Several countries have good histories with non-modern, traditional methods. For example, withdrawal is a commonly used method among educated couples in Iran and Turkey and has been widely used to prevent pregnancy in Sicily and Pakistan,” it read.