Despite New Global Commitments to Support Women’s Health, a $222B Gap Remains
Leaders from dozens of countries made political and financial commitments to support the elimination of maternal deaths, gender-based violence, and harmful practices, as well as to increase accessibility to family planning by 2030, as part of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Nairobi, Kenya this week.
Notable commitments include Norway pledging US$1.2 billion for sexual and reproductive health rights issues for 2020 to 2025 and the UK pledging US$750 million to support family planning initiatives in low-income countries. In addition, charitable and private sector organizations including World Vision, Ford Foundation, and Johnson & Johnson announced plans to mobilize $8 billion in combined pledges to support maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health and nutrition.
The ICPD25 summit marks the 25th anniversary of the ICPD held in Cairo, Egypt, where governments adopted an action plan to empower women and girls and make sexual and reproductive health accessible for all.
But Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), who together with the governments of Kenya and Denmark co-convened the summit, in her opening remarks said the ICPD Program of Action that was agreed upon in Cairo is “still far from reality.”
Dr. Gifty Addico, chief of commodity security branch in UNFPA’s technical division, also told Global Citizen that despite progress in accessibility to family planning options, millions of women do not have the ability to plan and prevent pregnancy.
“There is an unmet need in 232 million women who want family planning but are not using a contraceptive method. If we talk about about eliminating this [lack of access] by 2030, then we need to make even more significant investments than before,” she said.
At the #NairobiSummit we’ve mobilized over 1,000 political and financial commitments urgently needed to save millions of lives & empower women— Nairobi Summit (@NairobiSummit) November 14, 2019
See commitments made by President Uhuru Kenyatta, @KagutaMuseveni, @SigridKaag, @MinisterPeterE, @UN_PGA & more: https://t.co/iI3bUtPf1Hpic.twitter.com/KdrWg2k5Vi
During the summit, new research by UNFPA and the Johns Hopkins University was revealed, which showed that the total cost of achieving zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices within the next decade was $264 billion.
According to UNFPA, $42 billion in development assistance is expected to be spent on advancing these goals, leaving a gap of $222 billion.
Kanem urged leaders to increase their contributions to the fund.
“Our plead as UNFPA is for those who hold the purse strings to galvanize the resources that will lead to better productivity, more health and happiness, and alleviate the dire consequence of death when we turn a blind eye,” she said at the conference.
During the summit, the Canadian government reiterated their commitment to funding women’s global health.
Lisa Stadelbauer, Canada’s high commissioner to Kenya, told Global Citizen that the country’s Feminist International Assistance policy “enables us to speak boldly about difficult topics like abotion, comprehensive sexuality education, family planning, and ending early child marriage, that unfortunately, some politicians, health practitioners, civil society organizations, and donors still refuse to discuss.”
In June, the Canadian government announced a 10-year commitment to reach an average of CAD $1.4 billion in annual investments by 2023 to support the health of women, adolescents, and children around the world.
Still, no new Canadian funding was announced in support of UNFPA Supplies specifically at the summit this week.
The summit was considered controversial by some individuals and groups who opposed the agenda of increasing access to contraceptives and family planning.
Protesters held a demonstration downtown Nairobi on Monday, one day before the summit began, and an online petition, which reportedly gathered more than 100,000 signatures, called for the government of Kenya to reject the agenda of ICPD25. Some religious leaders in Kenya denounced the event and the Catholic church in Rome refused to participate due to the summit’s emphasis on reproductive rights.
Sandeep Prasad, executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, responded to the criticism in an event marking the summit.
“Despite the gains we’ve seen [in improving women and adolescent girls’ health], these remain contested statements,” he said. “And I say contested and not controversial because they’re constructed as controversial. There is nothing controversial about having control over our bodies.”