Too often, effective and inexpensive reproductive health supplies do not reach the people who need them. These supplies have the power to change lives – and to save them. Quality contraceptives, for example, empower couples to plan their families; basic medications keep women from bleeding to death during childbirth; and condoms protect people from HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Yet these products, collectively known as reproductive health commodities, are inaccessible to millions of people.
UNFPA aims to achieve ‘reproductive health commodity security.’ This means ensuring that every person is able to obtain and use the affordable, quality reproductive health commodities of their choice, no matter where they live.
In 2007, UNFPA launched the Global Programme to Enhance Reproductive Health Commodity Security (GPRHCS), a fund that supports countries’ efforts to build stronger health systems and ensure access to a reliable supply of contraceptives, condoms, and medicines for family planning, HIV/STI prevention and maternal health services.
|GPRHCS support has helped some 4.5 million women in 46 countries receive access to modern contraceptives and reproductive health services.|
|Between 2008 and 2013, GPRHCS-procured contraceptives provided 121 million ‘couple years of protection’ – a measure of the amount of protection provided by family planning services.|
|In 2013, contraceptives procured by GPRHCS had the potential to avert an estimated 9.5 million unintended pregnancies, 27,300 maternal deaths and 1.1 million unsafe abortions.|
|Among development actors, GPRHCS is the leading supplier of contraceptives. GPRHCS funds accounted for 41 per cent of all aid shipments of reproductive health commodities in 2013. GPRHCS supported the procurement of about 33 per cent of all donated reproductive commodities.|
Scaling up efforts
From 2008 to 2012, GPRHCS provided multi-year support to 12 priority countries and funded targeted initiatives in 34 countries. Additional support was also provided to countries affected by humanitarian crises.
These efforts increased access to, choice of, and use of modern contraceptives. They also enhanced the capacity of national health systems to manage these supplies and to provide family planning, maternal health and HIV-prevention services. Family planning is increasingly being prioritized at the highest levels of national policies, plans and programmes.
GPRHCS is now intensifying its efforts. From 2013 to 2020, priority support will be provided to 46 countries grappling with high maternal death rates, low rates of contraceptive use and a growing unmet need for family planning. More than half of these countries are also contending with humanitarian crises.
Use of modern contraception has increased substantially
In Rwanda, the contraceptive prevalence rate increased by 17.7 percentage points over three years. In Ethiopia, it increased by 14.7 points over three years, and in Sierra Leone CPR, it grew by 8.9 percentage points over five years. In Liberia, contraceptive prevalence rate increased by 8.8 percentage points over six years, and in Malawi it went up 14.1 percentage points over six years.
Better access to a broad range of contraceptives at all levels
At least three modern methods of contraception are now available in more than 70 per cent of primary healthcare facilities in 12 countries, and by 2016, GPRHCS aims to increase the choices available to at least five methods of modern contraception.
At least five methods are offered in 100 per cent of facilities at ‘tertiary health care level (meaning in centres offering specialized diagnosis and treatment) and in at least 80 per cent of facilities at ‘secondary health care level’ (meaning settings where a physician offers care at the request of a primary physician) in 10 countries.
Essential maternal health supplies are saving lives
GPRHCS procures medicines and supplies that save the lives of women before, during and after pregnancy.
In 2013, at least seven medicines considered by the World Health Organization to be priority life-saving maternal health medicines were available in at least 90 per cent of tertiary health care facilities points in 13 GPRHCS countries. Sixteen countries had all the priority medicines in at least 70 per cent of secondary health care facilities.
More couples and individuals are protected
Another way to assess progress is to calculate the estimated amount of protection provided by family planning services during a year – a measurement known as couple-years of protection (CYP). From 2008 to 2013, contraceptives procured by GPRHCS provided 86 million CYP. In 2013 alone, GPRHC procured contraceptives providing 35 million CYP. This amounts to a total of 121 million CYP since 2008.
GPRHCS is the only UN programme that specifically addresses reproductive health commodity security. Working with partners – including UN agencies, governments, communities, faith-based organizations and the private sector – the programme works at every level to improve access to these life-saving supplies. GPRHCS improves efficiency in procurement, strengthens national health systems and increases demand for reproductive health services and supplies. Rigorous performance monitoring and full oversight by donors helps to ensure the programme remains efficient, effective and transparent.
|Saving lives and empowering communities|
Fully meeting the entire need for modern contraceptive methods in the developing world would cost $8.1 billion per year, and would save millions of lives.
Meeting the unmet need for modern family planning and maternal and newborn health care would reduce maternal deaths by about two thirds, from 287,000 to 105,000.
|If all women wanting to avoid pregnancy used modern family planning methods, unintended pregnancies would decline by 71 per cent, from 75 million to 22 million per year.|
|If all women with an unmet need for contraceptives were able to use modern methods, an additional 26 million abortions (16 million of which would be unsafe) would be prevented.|
|Increasing access to modern contraception among adolescent girls is a crucial starting point for improving their long-term health. Pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications are the leading killer of 15-to-19-year-old girls.
Reproductive health commodity security promotes sustainable development.
|Empowering couples to plan their families helps increase household savings and provides economic benefits for communities.|
|Access to contraceptives increases girls’ access to education and empowers women and girls to develop skills and secure jobs.|