The Summit is being co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK government's Department for International Development.
The aim is to empower more women to reach their full potential - their access to contraceptives is both a human right and now "a transformational health and development priority", Summit leaders announced in a written communiqué.
Andrew Mitchell, UK's Secretary of State for International Development, said:
"This is a breakthrough for the world's poorest girls and women which will transform lives, now and for generations to come. The commitments made at the Summit today will support the rights of women to determine freely, and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they have.
"Enabling an additional 120 million women in the world's poorest countries to access and use contraception, something women in the developed world take for granted, will save millions of lives and enable girls and women to determine their own futures."
As a result of today's collective efforts, by 2020:
- 200,000 fewer women will die in pregnancy/childbirth
- There will be over 100 million fewer unwanted pregnancies
- There will be over 50 million fewer abortions
- Three million fewer babies will die during their first 12 months of life
"When I travel and talk to women around the world they tell me that access to contraceptives can often be the difference between life and death. Today is about listening to their voices, about meeting their aspirations, and giving them the power to create a better life for themselves and their families."
The total cost of delivering contraceptives to an extra 120 million females is estimated at about $4.3 billion. The Summit organizers claim that over 20 developing nations are now committed to addressing the policy, financing and delivery barriers to women with regard to information, services and supplies of contraceptives.
Spending on contraceptives provides enormous benefits, not only to the mother and her family, but also to a nation's economy. According to studies, every single dollar invested in family planning services provides a return $6 savings in public services, housing, water and health.
Proper family planning helps females get out of the cycle of poverty. According to WHO (World Health Organization), about 1 in every 4 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa has to drop out of school because of an unintended pregnancy. If they are able to control when they become pregnant, their lives and those of their families can improve significantly.
Population growth continues in many parts of the worldThe global human population growth peaked in 1962-1963 at 2.2% per year, and gradually dropped to 1.1% annually in 2009. If we look further back and calculate on larger timescales, the population explosion has been breathtaking.
Human population worldwide over the last 200 years (source: UNFPA):
- 1800 - 1 billion
- 1927 - 2 billion
- 1960 - 3 billion
- 1974 - 4 billion
- 1987 - 5 billion
- 1999 - 6 billion
- 2011 - 7 billion
Most regions in the world have seen sizeable reductions in growth rates. However, the following areas are still growing at over 2% per year: South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia. Until recently, most of Latin America was growing at over 2%, but over the last couple of years several countries have succeeded in bringing their rates down.
Annual population growth rates worldwide (Source: CIA Handbook - 2011)
Written by Christian Nordqvist