Access to Contraceptives Given Boost

Today, more than 200 million women worldwide want, but do not have access to, contraceptives, and many of these women live inAfrica. For example, inEthiopia, just 27pc of married women use modern contraceptives regularly, leaving thousands without the ability to plan the timing and spacing of their children.

Even when women have access to contraceptives, stock-outs are common, and their method of choice may not be available, limiting women’s ability to choose a method that best suits their needs.

But, this is about to change. Thanks to a milestone partnership between public and private organisations, millions more women in developing countries, including inEthiopia, will have improved contraceptive access and options. Through this agreement, Bayer HealthCare is providing its long-acting, reversible contraceptive implant, Jadelle, to millions of women in developing countries over the next six years, at less than half price – 8.50 dollars a unit, rather than 18 dollars.

There is strong demand for contraceptive options in developing countries. Long-acting, reversible contraceptives are particularly attractive in areas where access to health services is limited and stock-outs are common.

In fact, studies have shown that, while only one to two percent of the 600 million women in developing countries who are using modern methods of family planning use implants, a significantly greater proportion would choose implants, or other long-term methods, if they were consistently available. This partnership will help meet that need and give women more options so that they can choose the method that works best for them.

The partners behind this price reduction – including Bayer HealthCare, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and Sweden, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund – are contributing more than simply funds and products. The group is also working with in-country organisations to train healthcare providers in counseling and the provision of high quality clinical services, as well as improving delivery systems, so that a range of family planning options are accessible even in the most remote locations.

Giving women greater contraceptive access and options will have a powerful ripple effect across entire societies. When fully implemented, this new initiative will prevent approximately 280,000 infant and 30,000 maternal deaths. Thousands more children will have mothers while growing up, increasing their chances of attending school, eating well and staying healthy.

Ultimately, this plan will save approximately 250 million dollars in global health costs. That is millions of dollars that can be reinvested in other global health and development programmes, to help improve the lives of women and children in the poorest countries.

This partnership comes as a direct result of the landmark July 2012 London Summit on Family Planning. At this meeting, global leaders committed to providing 120 million more women in developing countries with access to voluntary family planning services by 2020, and called for innovative partnerships to expand contraceptive access. This commitment was later reaffirmed by leaders at the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities meeting, in September 2012.

Announcing the reduction in price for the Jadelle contraceptive is just the beginning. Global leaders from various sectors must continue to collaborate, form new partnerships, develop new technologies and, ultimately, generate even more solutions that will improve access to family planning worldwide.

Here inEthiopia, and in other African countries, our Heads of State and Ministers must continue the leadership they demonstrated at the London Summit, by turning their promises to invest in national family planning programmes into action. Only through this next step will women in Africa truly benefit from such commitments.

By making contraceptives—including long-acting, reversible methods —more affordable and accessible, we can help give women the power to create better lives for themselves, their families and their communities.

By Bashir Issak
Bashir Issak (PhD) is head of the Division of Reproductive Health within Kenya’s Ministry of Public Health & Sanitation. This commentary is exclusively provided to Fortune by Global Health Strategies.

Published on March 3, 2013 [ Vol 13 ,No 670]



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