The global push to stop mothers dying unnecessarily in childbirth, meet family planning needs and end violence against women could be undermined by a massive funding shortfall, researchers have found.
World leaders have pledged to redouble efforts to end preventable maternal death, satisfy family planning demand and stop violence and harmful practices against women and girls by 2030.
But figures published this week show that achieving these aims will require an additional $222bn investment over the next decade.
Research conducted by the UN population fund (UNFPA) and Johns Hopkins University, in collaboration with Victoria University, the University of Washington and Avenir Health, found that only $42bn in aid is expected to be spent on advancing these goals as things stand.
“We have a collective responsibility and opportunity to deliver on our promises – now,” said Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UNFPA.
“We cannot wait another 25 years. It’s time to fill these resource gaps and make this a decade of delivery. It’s time to get the job done.”
Ending preventable maternal deaths will cost a projected $115.5bn, with $68.5bn required for unmet family planning needs and $79.4bn to end gender-based violence and other harmful practices.
“We now know how much and where we need to invest. These figures are a drop in the ocean compared with the dividend expected and the funds available,” said Kanem.
“These are smart, affordable investments that will transform the lives of women and girls, their societies, and our world. The cost of inaction is much higher.”
The figures were released at a summit in Nairobi this week to mark the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), where 179 ministers pledged to implement a programme of action that called for women’s reproductive health and rights to be central in all national and international development efforts.
The three-day summit, hosted by the government of Kenya, Denmark and the UNFPA, is an attempt to get governments, NGOs, the private sector and foundations to recommit to promises made in 1994, and to push for action to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030.
“With strong financing momentum we can achieve these transformative results, complete the ICPD programme of action and meet the sustainable development goals on time by 2030,” said Kanem.
Denmark has pledged $15m for the UNFPA, with the UK promising a further $425m.
Attendees have been asked to endorse a statement pledging to back efforts to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“The Nairobi Statement and 1,000-plus commitments so far are powerful signals of our intention to secure reproductive health rights and rights and choice for all, once and for all,” Kanem added.
“I thank the 164 member states, here voluntarily out of good will and concern, not to negotiate new documents or language, but to uphold existing agreements and to share and learn from each other.”
Rasmus Prehn, Denmark’s minister for development cooperation, told the summit: “We are here for every woman and every girl across the globe. For dreams of a life in safety, dreams of a life without violence and a future where everyone lives on an equal footing.
“We can make change together with determination, strong commitments and new, innovative partnerships and alliances and across sectors, organisations, states.
Amina Mohammed, the UN’s deputy secretary general, said: “As critical accelerators for the sustainable development goals, the outcomes of ICPD must be carried forward. The success of the global agenda for sustainable development, our common framework for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, depends on it.
“The UN system commits to integrate the outcomes of the Nairobi summit as an integral component in the decade of action to deliver on the sustainable development goals.”
According to the UNFPA, more than 800 women die daily during pregnancy and childbirth, while 232 million women wanting to avoid pregnancy are not using a safe and effective method of contraception.
Calling for synchronised action, Victoria Chou, a researcher with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: “Closing the substantial gap with investment of urgently needed resources will ultimately improve health among women and their families, and that vision is what should motivate us looking forward after the Nairobi Summit.”
Private sector organisations including the Ford Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Philips, World Vision and many others announced that they will mobilise $8bn in combined new pledges to end preventable maternal deaths, unmet need for family planning, gender-based violence and other harmful practices by 2030.
The summit has not gone unopposed. A group of civil society organisations, led by Citizen Go, presented a petition calling on the Kenyan president to reject the summit commitments in their entirety. A protest is planned on Thursday.