Spending $1 and getting $4 back? It’s a deal that sounds too good to be true. Yet that’s exactly the return rate for investment in family planning. In terms of international aid, for every $1 invested in family planning, $4 is saved in areas such as education, public health, energy and water and sanitation.

Access to family planning and a decrease in fertility rates are widely documented to expand populations of working adults and decrease the proportion of dependent children. This contributes toward a “demographic dividend” — a surge in a nation’s economic growth. The World Bank has termed the economic and social impacts of increased access to family planning “transformative.”

As detailed in a working paper published by the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the “greatest challenges” facing poor countries is the urgent need for comprehensive, reproductive health services, including family planning. If this need goes unmet, “this challenge will jeopardize poverty reduction measures taken by governments, civil society, and aid- based organizations and threaten their long-term growth prospects.”

As the statistics below demonstrate, the need for increased access to family planning is outweighed only by its massive potential benefits:

  1. Globally there are 222 million women who want to prevent pregnancy but are in need of contraception.
  2. 73% of women who lack desired access to contraception live in the world’s 69 poorest countries. In sub-Saharan countries like Somalia, as little as 14% of women have access to contraception. As a result, the average Somalian woman gives birth to six children and one out of every 12 women die of pregnancy-related causes. Globally,1,000 women die every day from complications due to child birth — more than 80% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  3. In a comprehensive study conducted in Bangladesh, women in villages that were involved in a family planning outreach program reported monthly earnings that were 40% higher than in comparison villages. Women of childbearing age who were part of the outreach program were also healthier, with bigger BMIs, and were more likely to have access to clean water. Child mortality rates also decreased by 30%.
  4. Research since the Cairo International Conference on Population Development has indicated that if the global birth rate had dropped by five per one thousand during the 1980s, there would be a full one-third fewer people living in poverty today.
  5. Despite numerous research findings that illustrate the substantial economic, health and environmental benefits of providing access to family planning and the crucial role it plays in poverty reduction, there remains a sorry lack of available resources to the populations in need. Only 22% of family planning funding needs are being met worldwide.

Kelley Calkins

Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, mamaye!, World Bank, Population Action International
Photo: Global Press