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World Population Day 2017: Family planning a driver for development

A person’s ability to plan the timing and size of his or her family closely determines the realization of other rights. Unfortunately, the right to family planning is one that many have had to fight for, and still today, despite the strong global rights and development frameworks that support it, requires vigorous advocacy and broader support. 

London Family Planning Summit

This year’s World Population Day, 11 July, coincides with the London Family Planning Summit, the second meeting of the consortium of donors and stakeholders that make up the Family Planning 2020 initiative, which aims to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women by 2020.

What is at stake?

Access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right, is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and is a key factor in reducing poverty. Yet, some 214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are currently not using safe and effective family planning methods. Most of these women with an unmet demand for contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries on earth. Fulfilling their unmet demand would save lives by averting 67 million unintended pregnancies around the world and reducing maternal deaths by one third of the estimated 303,000 maternal deaths that will occur in 2017.


Women and girls in crisis settings

Moreover, across and within crisis settings, family planning services, including contraception, are often limited, inadequate or even non-existent. Even where family planning services do exist, the subordinate status of women and girls within the family in many societies may deny them access because they cannot negotiate use with their partners.

Immense challenges facing women and girls in the Arab region

Much of the Arab States region continued to be affected by conflict and natural disasters in 2016, endangering the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of pregnant women. In Syria and neighboring countries alone, 5.3 million women were of childbearing age that year, and an estimated 440,000 were pregnant. Women and adolescent girls bear extraordinary burdens as wars and disasters leave a trail of turmoil and destruction.

In Iraq, fighting in and around Mosul has resulted in large-scale displacement and has blocked women’s access to maternity care. Elsewhere in the region, a number of governments faced economic and political challenges to expanding access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning.

However, UNFPA and partners have been able to reach some 740,000 people with family planning in Yemen along with 650,000 people in 10 governorates who gained access to family planning in Syria

In drought-affected Somalia and amid displacement conditions, 211,000 unintended pregnancies averted through family planning services provided by UNFPA and partners.

A force for development

The theme for World Population Day 2017 is “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations.”

Investing in family planning is investing in the health and rights of women and couples worldwide. These investments also yield economic and other gains that can propel development forward and are thus critical to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying 17 Sustainable Development Goals.