By Magdalena Mis
LONDON, Nov 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Millions of women and girls in developing countries risk unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, campaigners said, as a global initiative to reach the world's poorest women with contraception is on track to miss its target.
Launched at the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012, The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative aimed to extend family planning services to 120 million women who want, but cannot get, reliable access to contraception by 2020.
While more than 30 million women and girls have gained access to contraception since 2012, the campaign failed to reach nearly 20 million more at its halfway point. That means it is not on track to reach its final goal, FP2020 said in a report published on Tuesday.
"Unless we speed up progress now, we will not fulfil our promise to women and girls for 2020," the report said.
According to FP2020, more than 225 million women and girls in developing countries who do not want to get pregnant cannot get reliable access to contraception.
Modern family planning methods allow mothers to delay childbearing and space births, reducing maternal and child mortality. Access to contraception also enhances economic development by boosting women's ability to work and invest in their children's health and education.
Supporters of the campaign estimate that 800 women die every day as a result of pregnancy-related complications - the leading cause of death for teenage girls in the developing world.
The report said a record 300 million women and girls in the 69 poorest countries were now using modern methods of contraception, an increase of 50 percent since 2003.
Eastern and southern Africa has seen the fastest growth of modern contraceptive use. For the first time ever, more than 30 percent of women and girls in the region were using a modern method of contraception, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique seeing the most rapid growth, the report said.
In Asia and Latin America, where contraceptive use was already relatively high, the growth has been slow, it said.
Enabling 120 million more women and girls to use modern contraceptives by 2020 was critical to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health by 2030 - one of the targets of the new development agenda adopted by the world leaders in 2015, the report said.
Studies show that every $1 invested in family planning services yields up to $6 in savings on health, housing, water, and other public services.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)