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Why contraceptive access is key to global development

Global development experts, policymakers and donors gather in London on Tuesday for a family planning summit aimed at ensuring more women and girls around the world are able to shape their own futures.

Experts say access to family planning is crucial for development as it allows girls and women to complete schooling and earn an income, which in turn benefits their families and communities.

Access to birth control also leads to smaller families, allowing parents to devote more resources to their children’s health and education, with positive repercussions for national economies.

A major focus of the summit will be expanding family planning services to adolescents.

Here are some facts:

* 214 million women in developing regions who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method such as condoms, pills or implants.

* Meeting this need would avert 67 million unintended pregnancies each year, and thereby prevent the deaths of 76,000 women from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

* Only one in three women experiencing complications during pregnancy or delivery receives the care they or their newborns need.

* In 2017, an estimated 300,000 women in poor countries will die from pregnancy-related causes and 2.7 million babies will die in the first month of life.

* Nearly one in five adolescent girls in developing countries becomes pregnant before the age of 18.

* Half of pregnancies among 15- to 19-year-olds in developing countries are unintended.

* Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 globally.

* Stillbirths and newborn deaths are 50 percent higher in mothers under 20 than in women who give birth later.

* Some 90 percent of births to adolescent mothers occur within marriage. Every year 15 million girls are married before they reach 18.

* Ensuring universal access to reproductive health services would lead to economic benefits of more than $430 billion each year.

* Each dollar invested in family planning has shown savings in other development areas ranging from $2 in Ethiopia, to $6 Bangladesh, and up to $9 in Bolivia.

* If all 200,000 adolescent mothers in Kenya completed secondary school and were employed instead of having children early, it would add $3.4 billion to Kenya’s gross income every year.

* Family planning slows population growth, which in turn reduces global warming. Every $7 spent on family planning over the next 40 years would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than a ton.

Source: Guttmacher Institute, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Reuters