Call for more funding to save lives of 35m women and children in world’s poorest countries

Up to 35 million lives could be saved by 2030 if a fund dedicated to improving the health of women and children is extended to 50 countries.

An independent analysis of the Global Financing Facility (GFF) estimated that if the fund manages to attract an additional $2 billion from donors it could extend from 27 to 50 countries, saving  up to 34.7m lives.

The GFF, set up in 2015 by the United Nations and the World Bank, works with countries, donors and the private sector, to implement a range of live-saving measures, with countries setting their own targets and taking ownership of their investments.

Currently around five million women and children die every year from preventable causes, largely due to low investment in health and nutrition services.

The analysis, published in the BMJ Global Health  journal, projected the impact of the fund for the period 2017 to 2030.

Global Financing Facility | How it works

Researchers worked out two funding scenarios: one “conservative” and one “ambitious”, which would see 34.7 million lives being saved.

Currently, 27 countries are using GFF money to improve the health of women and children by implementing interventions such as ensuring women have antenatal visits, are attended by a trained health worker during childbirth and that children have life-saving vaccinations.

The analysis looked at the impact of the fund being extended to the 50 countries around the world with the highest burden of preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents.

The analysis found that the most ambitious scenario would result in 275m cases of stunting being prevented by 2030 and rates of maternal mortality, under-five mortality and stillbirth all dropping by around a third.

Next month, the governments of Norway and Burkina Faso are hosting a replenishment conference with the aim of raising an additional $2bn for the GFF. If successful the GFF would then be extended to all 50 countries, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The GFF encourages countries to take ownership of their programmes, investing their own resources, rather than simply relying on donor funding.

The new analysis estimates that the extra £2bn raised could mobilise an additional $50 to $75 billion, the majority of which would come from countries’ domestic budgets and other forms of funding dependent on certain criteria such as the allocation of domestic budgets to health.

Increased global funding could save millions of lives

For example, one GFF country, Guatemala, has been freed of some debt payments to the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development on the basis it commits to spending the money saved on social programmes.

A report earlier this year on three "frontrunner" countries found that GFF funding was already making modest gains.

Mariam Claeson, director of the GFF, outlined the importance of the fund for women and children.

“For too long, the world’s poorest have been left behind, persistently underinvested in and deprioritised. We can change that – not only saving millions of lives, but dramatically improving the lives of many more women, children and adolescents, and helping countries to significantly improve their economic prospects.”

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