Unmet family planning needs
Dr. Yves Bergevin is the coordinator of the Maternal Health Thematic Fund for the United Nations Population Fund, the world's largest multilateral source of funding for population and reproductive health programs. Bergevin spoke to the Trib regarding the fund's recently released report “The State of World Population 2012.”
Q: The report indicates the family planning needs of more than 220 million women in developing nations aren't being met. Are there tangible economic benefits to providing the funding to meet those needs?
A: Yes. Access to voluntary family planning leads to tremendous economic benefits. We know that countries such as the Asian tigers — you know, the South Koreas, Thailands, etc. that have developed economically so well in the past few decades — all of those countries made sure that they fostered access to primary and secondary education for boys and girls, including age-appropriate sex education and access to family planning as part of primary health care. (Those things) contribute importantly to economic takeoff.
Q: Conversely, what about the countries that don't have that family planning access?
A: Well, take Chad, for instance, a country with a very low contraceptive prevalence (and) extremely high maternal mortality. One of the consequences of not having access to family planning is to be at much higher risk of death from pregnancy-related causes. And you have huge population pressure in such countries, with the population growing at 3 percent a year. (It's) very difficult for governments to keep producing schools or strengthening the health services just to keep up with the population growth rate, let alone make progress. It is clear now that it's nearly impossible for countries to lift themselves out of extreme poverty unless everyone in those countries has access to voluntary family planning.
Q: The report indicated there's an annual $4 billion shortfall in meeting worldwide family planning needs. Can those kinds of funds be raised to advance the cause?
A: I think we are confident that progress will be made — made by developed-country governments that must put in a budget line to ensure there are enough funds to cover family planning services and make those accessible in every community and in every health facility. I know the U.S. government has been tremendous in contributing to modern family-planning services and other governments, such as the United Kingdom, are contributing more. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made this a high priority, so we're confident that more resources will be forthcoming. (But) probably we need a bigger effort if we want to make progress. It's important that everyone takes this responsibility to ensure we meet the unmet need for family planning of those 222 million women in the world who do not have the access to it.
Q: Overall, is your organization satisfied with the progress being made regarding global family planning needs?
A: This has been, I think, a development success story, but more needs to be done. We still have more than 200 million women who do not have access, and these are some of the poorest women of the world and the least educated. I think our role is to make sure we state the facts, have people make their own conclusions (while encouraging everyone to take) responsibility (and) contribute to ensuring that everyone has access to voluntary family planning.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.