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Monday, 25th of June 2012 Print



Excerpts from a report from Save the Children Fund (UK), preparatory to the London Summit on Family Planning, June 2012

Full text is at http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/Every%20Woman%27s%20Right%20low%20res%20%282%29.pdf

Family planning is a fundamental right. More surprisingly perhaps, it’s also vital to improving children’s chances of survival. Ensuring women are able to plan whether or when to have children means babies and young children are more likely to survive, and it saves the lives of adolescent girls and women who are pregnant. And it helps countries to achieve their goals on development, and improve the lives of many millions of people.

In the last two decades there has been dramatic progress in reducing the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. In 2010, 12,000 fewer children under five died every day than in 1990.1 There has also been a one-third reduction over the same period in the number of mothers who die in childbirth.2 Global efforts to improve child andmaternal health are paying off. Family planning services are absolutely key to sustaining and accelerating this progress: it is estimated that fulfilling the unmet need for family planning would save the lives of 570,000 newborns and 79,000 mothers.3 And it would contribute significantly to achieving Millennium Development

Goal 4 – to reduce by two-thirds the number of children who die before their fifth birthday.

However, while the percentage of couples worldwide using modern methods of contraception increased from 41% in 1980 to 56% in 2009, over the last decade progress slowed drastically, with an annual growth rate from 2000–09 of just 0.1%.4 It means at least 222 million women who would benefit from being able to decide whether to delay their first pregnancy, to allow a longer space between their pregnancies, or to limit the size of their families, do not have the option.

How family planning helps save children’s lives

There are strong links between the provision of family planning and improvements in child health and survival. There are two key ways that access to contraception can impact the health and well-being of children and their ability to fulfil their potential:

1. Healthy spacing of pregnancies: Having a baby too soon after a previous birth is dangerous for mothers and babies. Ensuring women have reliable access to family planning, and are therefore able to allow a space of at least three years between their births, could help save the lives of nearly 2 million children each year.5

2. Children having children: Worldwide, complications in pregnancy are the number one killer of girls and young women aged 15–19. Every year 50,000 teenage girls and young women die during pregnancy or childbirth, in many cases because their bodies are not ready to bear children.

Babies born to young mothers are also at far greater risk than those whose mothers are older. Each year around 1 million babies born to adolescent girls die before their first birthday.6 In developing countries, if a mother is under 18, her baby’s chance of dying in the first year of life is 60% higher than that of a baby born to a mother older than 19.7

Many adolescent girls know little or nothing about family planning, let alone where to get it. Their low status within their families, communities and societies mean they lack the power to make their own decisions about whether or when to have a baby. No girl should die giving birth, and no child should die as a result of its mother being too young.