A new report has revealed that it would cost an average of 25 dollars to provide a package of essential sexual and reproductive health services to each woman between 15 and 49 years, in developing regions, annually.

This is roughly double the current level of spending, the report, released by the Guttmacher Institute in collaboration with UNFPA, tilted “Adding It Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health 2014”, has said. The report, copied to the Ghana News Agency, analyzed data from a wide range of sources, including survey data from women in developing countries, to document the number of women who lack services, what it would cost to meet their needs, and the benefits of meeting these needs.

This package would include: 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. The report revealed that 225 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy, but are not using modern contraceptives.

In addition, tens of millions of women do not receive the basic pregnancy and delivery care they need to protect their health and that of their new-borns. It says it found a staggering lack of basic sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries.

President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, Ms Ann Starrs, stated that: “Over the past two decades, we have achieved striking progress in making pregnancy and childbirth safer in developing countries but despite those gains, these new findings make clear that universal access to sexual and reproductive health services must remain a global health priority requiring urgent attention.” She explained that the report made it clear that, “this is an affordable goal that will have a dramatic impact in improving the lives of millions of women and families.”

“If we continue to under invest in sexual and reproductive health, we will be missing out on a tremendous opportunity to save lives, improve the health and well-being of families, and ultimately build stronger nations,” Ms. Starrs noted. Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, explained that the report was 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: “We must ensure the quality of services and availability of a full range of choices so women and men can get the health care they need.” “Providing this basic package of services to all women who need them in developing countries would have a dramatic impact. If all women wanting to avoid pregnancy used a modern contraceptive method, the number of unintended pregnancies would drop by 70% and unsafe abortions by 74%, he said.

“If contraceptive needs were met and, in addition, all pregnant women and their newborns received the basic standards of care recommended by the World Health Organization: The report, which presented findings from Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, discovers that the situation vary widely by region”. According to the analysis, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the average annual cost of providing a woman with the needed health care would be 31 dollars, compared with 14 dollars per woman in Asia.

However, costs would be significantly higher -76 dollars per woman- in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Sub-region with the greatest need for services and where health systems are generally weakest. Currently, of the 125 million women in developing countries who give birth every year: 54 million do not receive adequate antenatal care; 43 million do not deliver in a health facility; 21 million women and 33 million new-borns 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. Differences within regions are also considerable, it notes.

For instance, in East Africa, 42% of women deliver in a health facility, compared with 62% in Middle Africa and 87% in Southern Africa. In Asia, just 32% of the poorest women deliver in facilities, compared with 92% of the wealthiest women. Providing all women with the health care they need would also be cost-effective, the report says, because with far fewer unintended pregnancies, the cost of providing maternal and new-born care to all who need it becomes more affordable. “For every additional dollar invested in contraceptive services, 1.47 dollars is saved in maternal and new-born health care,” it says. GNA

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