Investing in the Developing World: Understand the Cost and Benefits


Many people have (and will likely continue) to question the need for contraceptives in developing countries. Without an understanding of the benefit, the cost may seem a high one. When we are talking about lives on the line however, it seems a small price to pay in contrast.

In developing countries, the need for modern day medicine must never be overlooked. The health benefits for women in these countries taking birth control range from the ability to prevent more abortions, reduce unintended pregnancies and lower the rate of death caused by pregnancy or childbirth.

The benefits to the economy are plentiful as well. When contraceptives are regularly used, women have the chance to become better educated, have better access to healthcare and family savings and consequently, the nation’s economy will benefit.

The United Nations Millennium Development goals include improving maternal health, reducing HIV/AIDS and reducing child mortality. All these goals are achieved by the regular and prolonged uses of contraceptives in the developing world. The rate of married women in the developing world (this accounts for 92% of those using modern methods) have changed only 1% between 2008 and 2012.

It’s estimated that of the women who are of reproductive age, 57% are in need of contraception. They are sexually active but do not plan on having children within the next two years. Unfortunately, women who are young, have never been married and are sexually active have the most difficult time gaining access to modern contraception in these countries. This unequal access is caused largely by the widespread disapproval of young women having sex prior to marriage. As a result, these women continue to have sex without the benefit of contraception. To put this in perspective, about 44%  of never married women are in need of contraception and only 24% of married women are in need.

Many of these countries do not have the advanced health care systems that we enjoy in the United States. While childbirth was once risky in America, it is now looked at as fairly routine. Complications do arise of course but nothing like they do in the developing world. In 2012, close to 300,000 women died from pregnancy-related complications. Having the ability to space at least two years between births has also proven to allow for healthier lives for the children.

The Cost of Investing in Contraceptives for The Developing World

The following are facts compiled by the  Guttmacher Institute:

  • Providing contraceptive care for the the developing world would cost $4.0 billion annually.
  • If all needs for modern contraceptives were fully met in these countries, the cost would be $8.1 billion annually. These costs would be split (much like our current method) between national governments, households and donor agencies.
  • The cost per person would raise from $6.15 to $9.31 (US dollars) due to the need for service provision improvement.
  • This investment of an additional $4.1 million would actually save nearly $5.7 billion in the health costs related to maternal and newborn needs.