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IPPF Statement on the UK Government cuts to our flagship WISH programme

As we warned in 2021, these devastating cuts mean thousands of women and girls will die from the indignity of an unsafe abortion, or in childbirth.

If you are covering the UK International Development Committee’s FCDO Equality Impact Assessment, and the implications for global sexual and reproductive health and rights, you may find the below statement from the International Planned Parenthood Federation helpful:

The UK’s brutal cuts are a tragic blow for the world's poorest and most marginalized women and girls.   

The assessment outlines cuts to the department's Overseas Development Assistance budget worth more than £900m for this year, including allocated funding for vital sexual and reproductive health services.  

In particular, IPPF faces cuts to its flagship programme: the Women's Integrated Sexual Health Programme (WISH), which delivers life-saving contraception and sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls in some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities. At inception in 2018 the programme delivered services across 15 countries in Africa and South Asia but had to scale down due to budget cuts with Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Zambia closing out in August 2021. Mozambique closed out in September 2021 and Afghanistan in December 2021. Finally, Pakistan closed out in 2022, leaving the programme running in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa at a smaller scale.  

The 2022-2023 budget cut of over 50% has seen further scaling down of in-country programmes resulting in lowered programme implementation coverage with reduced health facility support, reduced community outreaches, reduced community engagement and overall reduced access to sexual and reproductive services to the most marginalised groups. 

According to the latest assessment, cuts to WISH will reduce protection for women with "the number of unsafe abortions averted from nearly 300,000 to approximately 115,000; number of maternal deaths averted will drop from 2,531 to just over 1,000". 

Mina Barling, IPPF’s Director of External Relations said: 

“As we warned in 2021 and as demonstrated in the government’s own assessment, the devastating cuts to IPPF’s flagship programme in Africa and Asia mean thousands of women and girls will die - many from the indignity of an unsafe abortion, or in childbirth. To add further insult to injury, it has now left the most marginalised exposed to an aggressive opposition.  

The UK aid cuts did not happen in isolation. They compounded a transnational far-right regime that began during President Trump’s reign in the United States. In the most extraordinary of circumstances, the space left by civil society meant autocratic actors were now able to move rapidly, shrinking democratic space, and in doing so, exploiting new opportunities to further embed an anti-rights agenda.  

It is no coincidence that this has happened in countries (such as Uganda and Kenya) where the UK government had been a critical partner, where we are watching as anti-LGBTIQ+ legislation translates into increased violence and threatens incarceration and even the death penalty. This is a moment of crisis, which if left unaddressed, is an open invitation to others to replicate vitriolic policies, legislation and narratives. 

We are reaching a tipping point. We must connect the dots and take action now. We implore the UK government to restore its aid budget to pre-pandemic levels of 0.7% of Gross National Income. We urgently need the UK’s leadership, support, and investment so that IPPF and its partners can continue providing critical care where it is most needed. The lives of millions depend on it." 

Fact box 

Since its launch in 2018 and the end of December 2022, the WISH programme prevented an estimated:   

  • 12.2 million unintended pregnancies   
  • 4.1 million unsafe abortions   
  • 20,500 maternal deaths                              
  • Today, 218 million women want to access contraception but can't access it 
  • 35 million women each year still resort to an unsafe abortion.   
  • 20 million adolescents face an unmet need for contraception. For girls aged 15-19, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death globally.   
  • Pregnancy and marriage are the main reasons why adolescent girls drop out of school, and Africa has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the world.   
  • As a result of the pandemic, 12 million women and girls have lost access to contraception, leading to 1.4 million unintended pregnancies. This is what happens when access to SRHR care is uninterrupted.   


About WISH 

The Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) programme is the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) largest Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) delivery programme. The WISH programme delivers progress towards UK commitments on universal SRHR and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets by contributing to reductions in maternal deaths, unsafe abortions, and unintended pregnancies in Africa and South Asia.  

The Lot 2 WISH consortium (W2A) is led by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) with Marie Stopes Reproductive Choices (MSI), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Development Media International (DMI), Options, and Humanity and Inclusion (HI).   

In the project’s first phase, the WISH2ACTION Consortium operated in the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For the second phase, the project has continued across Burundi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. 

About the International Planned Parenthood Federation 

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is a global service provider and advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.   

For over 65 years, IPPF, through its 118 Member Associations and 15 partners, has delivered high-quality sexual and reproductive healthcare and helped advance sexual rights, especially for people with intersectional and diverse needs that are currently unmet. Our Member Associations and partners are independent organizations that are locally owned, which means the support and care they provide is informed by local expertise and context. 

We advocate for a world where people are provided with the information they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health and bodies. We stand up and fight for sexual and reproductive rights and against those who seek to deny people their human right to bodily autonomy and freedom. We deliver care that is rooted in rights, respect, and dignity - no matter what. 

For media inquiries please contact [email protected] 




Africa, South Asia