At least three donors have announced up to $350 million in new funding for family planning services and commodities for women and girls spanning nearly 27 of the lowest-income countries.
The UK’s Department for International Development will invest some $260m in a new flagship programme Women’s Integrated Sexual Health to ensure voluntary contraception for up to six million couples.
Canada announced $78.8m for projects that favour comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including universal access to family planning and access to safe and legal abortion.
The investment is part of Canada’s $650 million commitment to address gaps in funding for SRHR, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March 2017.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched an $18m fund for family planning in nine countries: $15m in matching grant and $3m for technical assistance.
The new streams of funding come as the latest Progress Report launched at the fifth International Conference on Family Planning in Kigali called for increased “investing in a lifetime of returns.”
Focus on young people
The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation has significant investment in projects target young people in parts of Africa.
But it is considering expanding its investment into especially West and Central Africa, according to Miles Kemplay, executive director for adolescence, sexual and reproductive health at the foundation
Experts have raised concern about the world reaching a critical moment: more than half of the 1.2 billion young people aged 10 to 19 live in developing countries and lack access to contraceptives.
Across the countries, access to sexuality education also differs—from poor to non-existent, even forbidden.
Without the education, young people lack knowledge to make informed choices.
But advocates have urged for policymakers to put up policies based on available evidence.
“Fifty-two percent of girls below 18 have had sex, and yet the ministries have stopped sexuality education in school,” says Hope Offor, coordinator of the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning in Nigeria.
“Girls below 18, where do you find them? In school. That’s the more reason policymakers should look at data.
“Must we continue allowing girls get pregnant and thwart their future? Every hour, four girls die from abortions. Must we continue allowing that?”
The push for comprehensive sexuality education is meant to give young people information on which to make decisions regarding their sexual health and rights.
“It is a misconception that giving comprehensive sexuality education makes girls promiscuous. In fact, it increases the age of sexual debut,” says Offor.
“Very visible but hard to reach”
The focus on young people getting access to services and commodities for reproductive health builds on growing momentum to put the ideas of young people into global family planning issues.
More than 600 youth delegates are among the nearly 4,000 people meeting at the latest international conference on family planning in Kigali.
Ejike Oji, board chair of the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning, says young people are a “very visible but hard to reach” group.
“It is the young unmarried adolescent, who the father and mother see every day but they are not speaking to her,” he says.
“She is making reproductive health decisions that are detrimental. She gets pregnant, gets sexually transmitted infections, faces unsafe abortion.
“These are the people we are not reaching at all. These are the groups that will drive our population to 450 million in Nigeria by 2050.
“Most of the people who have had children are not going to have any more children. It is the young ones that have not started producing.
“If they continue at the present growth rate of 3% in terms of contraceptive prevalence, we are in trouble.
“In 12 years, we added 58 million, and it is driven by young people who are right now going to get into fertility.
“We should stop ostrich hiding, know that our girls are already getting sexually active by age 14, 15, and make sure they get the appropriate information.
“That’s why parental education becomes an absolute strategy so they can start talking to girls in the home, and even the young men who get the girls pregnant.”