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Economic benefits of birth control reported

Additional investments in family planning yields economic benefits and would save developing countries more than US$11 billion annually, according to a UN report.

Better access to family planning in developing countries would reduce costs for maternal and newborn health care by $11.3 billion per year, according to the State of World Population 2012 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) published last week.

“This applies also to Cambodia,” UNFPA Representative to Cambodia Marc Derveeuw said. “The clear economic gains from investment in reproductive health including family planning benefits the country economy as a whole through the reductions in healthcare-related costs incurred by maternal and infant mortality and morbidity and mortality.

According to Stefanie Wallach, country director at Marie Stopes International Cambodia, MSI’s family planning services in Cambodia in 2011 saved families and the healthcare system in Cambodia approximately $1.5 million through reductions in maternal and infant death and a reduction in the number of unsafe abortions.

Wallach said there would be multiple benefits for Cambodia if women had more access to family planning, “including families having their desired family size and being able to provide economically for their children, which leads to children who are better educated, better nourished. Better nourished children are healthier which means fewer health costs for illness,” she said, adding that better educated children are able to get better jobs.

“Importantly, when women have access to FP, they tend to have children later, thus allowing them to complete their own education and have fewer children.”

The report said 222 million women of childbearing age in developing countries do not have access to modern contraceptives.

Providing contraceptives to all those women in need in developing countries in 2012 would require increasing current costs by $4.1 billion to $8.1 billion, the report said.

Wallach said access to family planning in Cambodia is better in urban areas and for women with higher economic status.

“However, overall in the country there is a high unmet need for family planning in Cambodia,” she said.

“According to the 2010 DHS, 54 per cent of women in Cambodia wanted no more children, yet only 35 per cent of married women are using contraception, and the most common method is the pill, which has high discontinuation rates.”

According to Derveeuw, the government budget for health has been increasing steadily over recent years, reaching $14 per capita for the recurrent budget of the Ministry of Health (MoH) in 2012. 

“While donors, in particular AusAID and USAID with the help of UNFPA, are helping out the MoH to procure FP commodities, an agreement has been made that by 2015 the MoH will fully finance the contraceptives from the national budget,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anne Renzenbrink at anne.renzenbrink@phnompenhpost.com

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