The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has been informed that the UK government has made significant cuts to the UK aid budget, including allocated funding for vital sexual and reproductive health services. The brutal cuts are a tragic blow for the world's poorest and most marginalized women and girls.
The significant loss of funding for IPPF – totalling around £72 million (approximately $100 million USD) – will mean massive reductions to the UK's flagship WISH (Women's Integrated Sexual Health) programme and the closure of services in four countries. This initiative 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.
The cuts to UK Aid Connect will also mean the closure of IPPF's ACCESS programme over the next 90 days. The ACCESS programme provides in-depth research on the specific sexual and reproductive health needs of marginalized communities. It works specifically in complex and challenging environments, including humanitarian settings in Lebanon, Mozambique, Nepal and Uganda and was only six months into its implementation. ACCESS was designed to work alongside WISH to ensure that no one is left behind.
Without additional funding, IPPF will be forced to close services in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, Uganda, Nepal and Lebanon and may be forced to close services in an additional 9 countries, withdrawing support for SRH services from approximately 4,500 service delivery points globally. Sadly, it will also mean the loss of over 480 IPPF staff supporting SRH service delivery in the FCDO supported countries.
The shocking 85% funding slash for UNFPA will also increase the price of commodities and supplies of contraception globally, making it more difficult for our Member Associations to source affordable supplies and maintain sustainability.
The catastrophic cuts come in the midst of the global pandemic when gender inequality and gender-based violence are increasing significantly, and healthcare services are stretched to the limit.
Without access to contraception and sexual health clinics, millions of women and girls in some of the world's most impoverished communities will fall pregnant, forcing them to choose between continuing an unintended pregnancy or having an unsafe abortion – putting their lives and health at risk.
The lack of commitment to sexual and reproductive healthcare also contradicts UK government priorities in ending preventable deaths, advancing gender equality, and getting 40 million more girls in low and middle-income countries into school by 2025. In a year where the UK will host the G7 summit, it has chosen to abandon its commitments to women and girls.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is deeply concerned by the news, and while we wait to see precisely how service will be impacted across the Federation, we know the most vulnerable women and girls will be hardest hit.
Dr Alvaro Bermejo, IPPF’s Director-General said:
"Cuts cost lives, and the decision to remove almost $100 million funding for some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable women and girls is just another example of the UK government stepping back when it is needed most.
"Women and girls are already disproportionately affected by the global pandemic. The callous removal of WISH's life-saving sexual and reproductive healthcare services will lead to millions more unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, forcing many girls out of school before they are even 16 and causing thousands of preventable maternal deaths. It is a betrayal of women and girls everywhere.
"The forced closure of IPPF's ACCESS programme only six months into its implementation in complex humanitarian settings including Lebanon, Mozambique, Nepal and Uganda, is profoundly upsetting. It will severely impact consortia partners who have invested money and time into its co-creation.
"By breaking its manifesto commitments with tactics reminiscent of the Trump era, this government will undo years of progress and investment. Continuing to spin a narrative to the Biden administration and other governments that the UK still cares while removing funding for essential services will not fly.
"Now more than ever, we need strong leadership, support and investment, so that IPPF can continue providing critical healthcare services when and where they are needed. As leaders of the G7 and COP, we implore the government to rethink its decision urgently and to remain a force for good. Lives depend on it."