Press release

UK to save a woman’s life every 90 minutes by increasing family planning support

Progress has been made globally to reach more women with family planning services, but more needs to be done.

Viola, a mother of six from Uganda, is now using family planning thanks to UK aid. Picture: Sheena Ariyapala/DFID

Viola, a mother of six from Uganda, is now using family planning thanks to UK aid. Picture: Sheena Ariyapala/DFID

The UK will save the life of one woman every 90 minutes through its global leadership in supporting modern, voluntary family planning, International Development Secretary Priti Patel will announce today (Tuesday, 11 July) at a major international summit.

Today there are 214 million women around the world, who despite not wanting to get pregnant, aren’t using modern contraception. Progress has been made globally to reach more women with family planning services, but more needs to be done.

Voluntary family planning saves lives by enabling women to plan, and have fewer, pregnancies – reducing their risk of death through unsafe childbirth. This risk is very high in the world’s poorest countries, especially for adolescents.

At today’s Family Planning Summit, Ms Patel will set out an increased support package - boosting and extending the UK contribution until 2022 - to provide voluntary, modern family planning to women in the world’s poorest countries across Africa and Asia.

The UK’s total package of support until 2022 will every year:

  • help save the lives of over 6,000 women by preventing maternal deaths – that’s one woman every 90 minutes
  • support nearly 20 million women to receive voluntary contraceptives through family planning services
  • help avert 6 million unintended pregnancies
  • help prevent the trauma of 75,000 stillbirths and nearly 44,000 new-born deaths

The London Summit is co-hosted by Ms Patel, Melinda Gates (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and Natalia Kanem (UN Population Fund – UNFPA), and will look at practical measures to reduce costs and increase availability for the millions of women who want contraception, but can’t afford it or get hold of it.

Africa’s population is rising to unsustainable levels, with Sub-Saharan Africa passing the one billion mark this year. Giving people access to voluntary family planning helps slow population growth and makes real economic sense. For every £1 spent, governments can save over £4 which can in turn be spent on improving health, housing, water sanitation and other public services.

In her key note speech, Ms Patel will highlight the UK’s global leadership in responding to the urgent need for voluntary family planning; the innovative technology being used to reach women in the poorest communities across Asia and Africa and call on others – including businesses – to do more.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel said:

It’s truly astonishing that in today’s world there are still 214 million women around the world who do not want to get pregnant, but who are not currently using modern methods of family planning.

Britain is leading the world on sexual and reproductive health, helping millions more women in the world’s poorest countries to access and use desperately-needed family planning services.

This new UK aid support will provide 20 million women with voluntary contraception, change the lives of 6 million women by allowing them to avoid unintended pregnancies and prevent the trauma of 75,000 still births.

But this isn’t a job for the UK alone and that’s why at this global Summit governments from around the world have come together to make commitments on family planning to address the long term need and unsustainable population growth.

We are supporting the world’s poorest women to take control of their lives, so they can finish their education, get better jobs and in turn provide for their smaller, planned families rather than being trapped in a cycle of grinding poverty through unplanned pregnancies.

The Summit will address several pressing issues, including:

  • addressing the need in emergency situations. Family planning remains one of the biggest gaps in humanitarian response, leaving women at risk of maternal death or having to resort to unsafe abortions. The Summit will address this so that women experiencing humanitarian crises can obtain the contraceptives that they need to protect their health

  • blockages that mean that contraceptives that are supposed to be available simply don’t make it onto the shelves

  • making sure women have a choice in contraceptives, along with accurate information, so they can opt for the product that suits them best be it short term, long lasting or permanent. More choice will lead to more uptake

  • the specific barrier faced by adolescents - both married and unmarried - including a critical lack of access to accurate information and the cultural barriers around adolescent sexual activity, which can further restrict contraceptive provision for this group.

In addition to saving lives by stopping women from dying in childbirth, investing in family planning provides long term life-changing benefits for women and their families, communities and countries.

It means women can make their own decisions about their own lives and futures, and helps stop the cycle of grinding poverty, improving lives now and in the future. This means local economies can grow, in turn boosting global prosperity, which is in everyone’s interests.

The UK put family planning on the international agenda with the inaugural 2012 Family Planning Summit where a goal was established to help 120 million additional women and girls use modern, voluntary family planning by 2020.

Britain is the second largest bilateral donor of family planning in the world. Since the 2012 Summit, the UK has helped nearly 8.5 million additional women to access modern methods of contraception.

Notes to editors:

At the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, the UK Government committed to spending £180 million per year on family planning until 2020. With this new commitment the UK Government’s support will be an average of £225 million per year until 2022, an additional £45 million a year‎ for 5 years. The £45 million is new funding for family planning.

A full programme for the summit can be found here. And the Summit’s livestream can be found here:

For b-roll footage, photos and relevant documents visit the Summit’s Isebox

Follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #HerFuture

General media queries (24 hours)

Published 11 July 2017