The cost of preventing pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths is likely to increase six-fold by 2030 — up to $7.8 billion from an estimated $1.4 billion last year — according to a report released by the United Nations on Thursday.
The estimate is based on research conducted at the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and Johns Hopkins University, and takes into account the annual cost of pregnancy related services such as paying for medical staff, drugs, and supplies, the Guardian reported.
The UNFPA is the world’s largest provider of family planning services and works in countries with the highest maternal mortality rates through its UNFPA Supplies program. The agency has helped prevent tens of thousands of maternal deaths by providing maternal health support, medicines, and family planning services.
Maternal mortality is still a prevalent issue worldwide, and although progress has been made in recent years, the number is still alarmingly high — about 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
But despite the growing need for funding, donor aid for maternal health care observed a steep decline between 2013 and 2017, falling from $4.4 billion to $3.9 billion.
The UNFPA said the newly released figures should be a wake-up call for countries and hopes the high numbers will help get more funding from donors and the private sector.
“We want to show the facts to stakeholders that this is the situation,” Tharanga Godallage, monitoring and data specialist at the UNFPA, told the Guardian.
“It’s a call to action … We need to accelerate [progress] as we only have 11 years left.”
The organization also predicted that the annual cost of fulfilling the growing need for contraception would double — from $2.3 billion in 2018 to $4.5 billion by 2030.
The decision to defund the agency comes as part of a broader pushback on funding reproductive health care.
Approximately 214 million women, girls, and young people want, but do not have access to, reproductive and sexual health services. Often those who are most at risk are women and girls unable to afford or access health services in vulnerable communities across the world.
There are prevalent disparities even within the US. For instance, black women are 12 times more likely to suffer from pregnancy-related complications and deaths than white women, because of the limited availability of economic and health care resources.
Natalia Kanem, UNFPA's executive director, recently told the Guardian that women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights needed to be “elevated to front and center” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.
“We have to respond to the challenge on [women’s] rights,” she said.
“While the SDGs are aspirational, they are also a blueprint to what human society needs in order to survive and thrive … Full gender equality is of benefit to women certainly, and also a benefit to everybody.”