New data from the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has revealed that unless alternative funding is sourced, the UK government's £131 million ($186 million) cut to UNFPA Supplies – the largest provider of donated contraception for some of the world's poorest communities - will lead to an estimated additional:
- 2.4 million unintended pregnancies
- 685,000 unsafe abortions and
- 7,447 maternal deaths across IPPF's services alone before the end of 2021.[i]
IPPF uses donations of contraception from UNFPA Supplies, including the pill, injectables, implants, IUDs, and condoms, to deliver much-needed sexual and reproductive healthcare across 45[ii] countries via its Member Associations (M.A.s).
For 2021, IPPF has received just $1.5 million worth of contraception out of the $14 million requested for the year. It is growing increasingly concerned that the remaining $12.5 million worth of contraception will no longer be available, meaning Member Associations will be dangerously close to running out of stock by the end of 2021, with shortages becoming increasingly acute for 2022 unless replacement funding can be found. The $14 million equates to 40% of IPPF's overall budget of $35 million for contraceptive supplies across the entire Federation.
Some IPPF Member Associations have reported that they are 100% reliant[iii] on the millions of dollars worth of contraception they receive from UNFPA Supplies, including M.A.s in Nepal, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Mozambique, Yemen, and South Sudan. For others, donations from UNFPA form a significant part of their budgets, such as M.A.s in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria, and Sudan.
Furthermore, with the gap between procurement of contraception and supply often taking six months or more, and with UNFPA Supplies also the primary provider for Ministries of Health in the countries that IPPF and UNFPA work with, other avenues for Member Associations to receive contraception and commodities are also severely restricted.
The crushing figures come on top of already devastating news for IPPF, the world's largest sexual and reproductive healthcare organization, which saw cuts of around £72 million, approximately $100 million at the end of April.
These cuts include the dismantling of the U.K.'s hugely successful WISH (Women's Integrated Sexual Health) programme just three years into its creation, as well as the closure of IPPF's ACCESS (Approaches in Complex and Challenging Environments For Sustainable Sexual and Reproductive Health) programme.
Both initiatives help deliver life-saving contraception and sexual and reproductive healthcare for some of the most marginalized women and girls, including those living in poverty, refugees, those living with HIV, and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. In some of the 45 countries, IPPF works with UNFPA Supplies alongside the WISH and ACCESS programmes.
Dr Alvaro Bermejo, IPPF’s Director-General, said:
"Millions of women[iv] in the world's poorest countries want to access contraception but can't, and this number will only increase following the U.K government's decision to axe hundreds of millions of promised pounds from the expert organizations that provide sexual and reproductive healthcare worldwide.
"Not only are the government dismantling well-established healthcare clinics and teams, but they are also stripping the remaining ones of valuable resources with little to no notice. Soon, healthcare teams will be left with nothing to give the women and girls who come to clinics for contraception, inevitably leading to millions of unintended pregnancies, thousands of unsafe abortions, and thousands of maternal deaths.
"While the government has presented these cuts as inevitable, no other country has slashed international aid in this way, and it will take years to rebuild programmes and regain the trust of devastated communities.
"What the government fails to recognize is that cuts to a body like UNFPA Supplies have a devastating ripple effect through the entire global healthcare ecosystem, weakening it in the process. This naive and short-sighted decision will have long-lasting consequences, with the lives of thousands of women and girls lost in the process."
Manuelle Hurwitz, Director of Programmes, added:
"Not only are these cuts a disgrace, but they completely contradict the U.K government's 'priorities' of gender equality and getting 40 million more girls into education by 2025. Because how can a girl stay in school if she is pregnant before she is 16?
"It is especially galling that this comes at the time when the U.K government, as leaders of the G7 summit, will urge nations to "build back better" after the coronavirus pandemic while choosing to abandon the poorest women and girls in the world's darkest hour."
In the wake of the continued blows for women and girls worldwide, IPPF is asking the government to urgently recommit to setting aside 0.7% of the U.K.'s national income for international aid, as per its legal commitments.
Programme delivery on hold
Since its launch in 2008, UNFPA supplies, alongside IPPF and other partners, has helped prevent:
- 89 million unintended pregnancies
- 26.8 million unsafe abortions
- 227,000 maternal deaths[v]
But the unexpected level of cuts in the middle of the financial year now means services and deliveries are on hold while partners grapple with the overwhelming task of securing funds for contraception and medical supplies.
Dr Naresh Pratap is the Executive Director for the Family Planning Association Nepal (FPAN), one of IPPF's Member Associations. FPAN is heavily reliant on UNFPA Supplies, with 100% of its average annual commodities budget of $700,000[viii] supported by UNFPA donations. Nepal has also been affected by the ACCESS programme's immediate closure and is subject to ongoing humanitarian crises due to its geographic remoteness, natural hazards, limited healthcare capacity and one-quarter of the nation living in extreme poverty. He said:
"At the time when Nepal has already been affected by Trump's Gag Rule and gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, the funding cuts to UNFPA supplies will mean that millions of people on the ground will struggle to access contraception. As an organization that depends heavily on UNFPA supplies and has been hard-hit by the recent closure of the ACCESS programme, the U.K. government's funding cut has further exacerbated FPAN's capacity to serve underprivileged people in urgent need of sexual and reproductive healthcare services – it is unacceptable and beyond humanity."
Investing in women means investing in sexual and reproductive healthcare
With 120 million people about to be pushed back into extreme poverty due to the global pandemic, and women and girls already suffering the pandemic's effects disproportionately compared to men, the cuts have come at one of the most challenging times for nations around the world.
If countries are to build back better after the coronavirus pandemic, investing in sexual and reproductive healthcare is one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty. As the U.K. heads into the G7 summit, leadership, commitment and intelligent forward-thinking is needed now, more than ever.
"These cuts will be devastating for women and girls and their families across the world," said UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem in a statement about the cuts.
"UNFPA recognizes the challenging situation facing many donor governments, yet deeply regrets the decision of our longstanding partner and advocate to step away from its commitments at a time when inequalities are deepening, and international solidarity is needed more than ever.
"The truth is that when funding stops, women and girls suffer, especially the poor, those living in remote, underserved communities and those living through humanitarian crises. The needs of women and girls and their right to modern contraceptives have not changed, and UNFPA remains resolute and dedicated to our mandate."
[i] Internal data from IPPF calculated using the pending $12.5 million pending request from UNFPA supplies.
[ii] The 45 countries include: Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cambodia, CAR, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar Mali, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigera, Pacific Island Countries (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu) Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Yemen,Zambia and Zimbabwe.
[iii] MA’s 100% reliant on donations from UNFPA include Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Conakry, Nepal, Samoa, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Yemen.
[iv] 217 million women who want to avoid pregnancy have an unmet need for contraception.
[v] Internal data from IPPF calculated using 2020 actual donation and 2021 requested value