Melinda Gates said she is “deeply troubled” by Donald Trump’s decision to cut funding for family planning, a move that threatens to reverse progress made on expanding services to women in some of the poorest parts of the world. .
At the opening plenary of the global family planning summit in London on Tuesday, Gates said: “This is a difficult political climate for family planning. I’m deeply troubled, as I’m sure you are, by the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts.
“If empowering women is more than just rhetoric for the president, he will prove it by funding family planning.”
The US is the largest donor for family planning, giving more than $600m this year alone.
But in May, Trump decided not allocate any funding for international family planning in his proposed budget. The move followed a decision in April to defund the UN Population Fund (UNFPA. The UNFPA is already facing a funding hole of $700m (£543m) until 2020. At the time of the budget, Melinda Gates tweeted that the move “would come at a tremendous cost to families around the world”.
The double funding blow followed Trump’s decision in January to reintroduce the “global gag rule”, which prevents US aid money from supporting overseas organisations if their work touches on abortion’, which campaigners say puts the lives of millions of women at risk.
On Tuesday, Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would increase its funding for family planning by 60%, with an extra $375m over the next four years. About $250m of this money will be used to fund services for teenagers.
But she admitted: “This additional funding can’t begin to close the gap that the US budget cuts could create.”
More than $2.5bn (£1.9bn) is expected to be pledged at the summit, which is co-hosted by the Gates foundation, the UK Department for International Development (DfID) and the UNFPA. The summit aims to accelerate efforts to get modern contraceptives to 120 million more women and girls in 69 target countries by 2020 – a target that was set five years ago.
At the halfway point, only around 30 million more women had been reached, around 20 million less than had been hoped.
More than half of the money – $1.5bn – has been pledged by 38 of the 69 countries in Africa and Asia.
An estimated $233m a year is needed to get family planning services to 120 million more women.
The UK government announced it was increasing its funding for family planning by £45m a year until 2022. In 2012, DfID pledged £185m per year until 2020, but the extra funding will result in an average £225m a year until 2022.
Speaking ahead of the summit, the international development secretary, Priti Patel, said: “Britain is leading the world on sexual and reproductive health and women’s rights, and we have helped 8.5 million more women make an informed choice about using desperately-needed family planning services since 2012.
“But there are still 214 million women around the world who do not want to get pregnant, and are not currently able to use modern methods of family planning. Progress has been made, but more needs to be done.
“The UK government’s family planning summit with our international partners is an exciting and vital opportunity to work together to empower millions more women and girls to take control of their own lives so they can complete their education and later on take up better jobs, in turn boosting global prosperity.”