January 26, 2016
Written by Stephanie Desmon, Dir. of Media & Public Relations, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday reiterated its pledge of an additional $120 million over the next three years to accelerate improved access to modern contraceptive methods for 120 million more women and girls throughout the developing world who lack access to quality family planning programs.
The pledge came via the taped remarks from Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, shared at the opening ceremony of the 2016 International Conference for Family Planning (ICFP) in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. The money will go toward improving family planning advocacy, improving family planning services particularly in the private sector and expanding proven family planning interventions in some of the poorest places in the world. The infusion is designed to provide a boost to FP2020, a global partnership dedicated to bringing modern contraception to 120 million more women and girls across 69 countries by the year 2020. While roughly 24.4 million more women and girls have obtained access, a UN representative said that is 10 million behind schedule.
“We’re falling behind,” Christopher Elias, president of the Global Development Program at the Gates Foundation, told the crowd assembled in Nusa Dua. “We need to act smarter. We need to act together. And, above all, we need to act now.”
In more news from the conference, the Gates Foundation is co-funding with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) a $30 million grant for a new initiative called Adolescents 360, which aims to increase girls’ use of modern, voluntary contraceptives in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania. The grant was announced by Alvaro Bermejo, executive director for health at CIFF, as he accepted the Global Humanitarian Award for Women’s and Children’s Health on behalf of Sir Christopher Hohn, co-founder of CIFF.
More than 2,700 researchers, policymakers, practitioners, youth and thought leaders from more than 70 countries are making this the world’s largest scientific conference on family planning. With its theme of “Global Commitments, Local Actions,” this 4th International Conference for Family Planning, held through Thursday, is focusing attention on family planning as a key element of the new Sustainable Development Goals.
Improving access to long acting reversible contraceptives, the role of family planning in the new global development goals and new strategies to extend a range of family planning methods to the world’s 1.8 billion adolescents highlight the conference agenda. Those at the opening ceremony invoked the importance of empowering women and girls to make family planning decisions, enabling them to decide when and whether to have children. Having fewer children and spacing the birth of children are known to improve the economic prospects of women and their families as well as communities and nations.
“Welcome to the island of the gods,” intoned the master of ceremonies as she opened the event. His Excellency Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the president of Indonesia, officially kicked off the conference later by ringing a traditional gong.
Among the other speakers: Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Under-Secretary of the United Nations; Surya Chandra Surapaty, head of the National Population and Family Planning Board of Indonesia (BkkbN); Robert Blake, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia; Michael J. Klag, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Jose “Oying” Rimon II, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School. BkkbN and the Gates Institute are co-sponsors of the conference.
President Jokowi said that only by encouraging local government to make family planning a priority will goals be attained. “Investment in family planning is necessary,” he said, adding, “only by doing this can we make Planet Earth a better place to live.”