A new UN-backed study has found that spending $25 per woman per year on full sexual health services would dramatically reduce maternal and newborn deaths in developing nations.
Lack of Basic Sexual Health Services
The study, conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, finds a staggering lack of basic sexual and reproductive health services in less-developed countries.
The report estimates, currently, of the 125 million women who give birth every year in developing regions:
- As many as 54 million do not receive adequate antenatal care.
- A total of 43 million do not deliver in a health facility.
- 21 million women and 33 million newborns do not receive care for medical complications.
- 550,000 pregnant women living with HIV do not receive treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Advantages of Using Modern Contraceptive Methods
If all women wanting to avoid pregnancy used a modern contraceptive method, the number of unintended pregnancies - mistimed, unplanned, or unwanted at the time of conception - would drop by 70% and unsafe abortions by 74%, the study states.
It adds that if contraceptive needs were met and all pregnant women and their newborns received the basic standards of care recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO):
The number of women dying from pregnancy-related issues would drop by two-thirds; from 290,000 to 96,000; neonatal deaths would fall by more than three-fourths from 2.9 million to 660,000; and transmission of HIV from mothers to newborns would nearly be eliminated.
Basic Package of Services
The study has recommended a basic package of services to all women and this package includes: contraceptive services, pregnancy and newborn care, services for pregnant women living with HIV, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, and treatment for four other sexually transmitted infections.
Annual Cost Varies by Region
Providing this package to women each year is an affordable goal, and it would cost only $25 per woman and roughly double the current level of spending. But, the average annual cost of providing a woman with the needed health care varies widely by region.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the average annual cost would be $31, compared with $14 per woman in Asia. The cost would be considerably higher - $76 per woman - in Sub-Saharan Africa, the sub-region with the greatest need for services and where health care services are generally weakest.
Providing all women with the health care they need would also be cost-effective. According to the researchers, for every additional dollar invested in contraceptive services, $1.47 is saved in maternal and newborn health care.
"This report is an urgent call to action for increased investments in sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning. These investments save lives, empower women and girls, strengthen health systems and have a profound and lasting impact on development," said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
"If we continue to under-invest in basic sexual and reproductive health services, we will be missing out on a tremendous opportunity to save lives and ultimately to build stronger nations," said Ann Starrs, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute.