Sub-Saharan Africa has Sharpest Growth in Contraceptive Use

  • Percentage of women using modern method of contraception has grown from 31 percent to over 35 percent over the past decade
  • Use of contraceptives has averted more than 141 million unintended pregnancies, 29 million unsafe abortions and almost 150 000 maternal deaths

GOSEGO MOTSUMI

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of women using modern family planning methods in low and lower middle-income countries.

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This is revealed in latest FP2030 2022 Measurement Report that was released at the International Conference on Family Planning 2022 in Thailand last week.

While contraceptive prevalence has steadily increased in these countries, the sharpest growth has been in Sub-Saharan Africa with 6.2 percent increase from 2012 to-date.
“In low- and lower middle-income countries, contraceptive prevalence among all women has increased from 31.9 percent to over 35 percent in the past decade,” says the report. “This means that one in three women of reproductive age is now choosing to use modern contraception.”

Modern contraceptive use
“In the last year alone, women’s use of contraception in low- and lower-middle income countries has averted more than 141 million unintended pregnancies, 29 million unsafe abortions and almost 150 000 maternal deaths.”

The report states that more than one billion women and girls of reproductive age (15–49) live in low- and lower-middle income countries. An estimated 371 million of those women are now using a modern method of family planning – 87 million more than just a decade ago.

From the measurement report, one fact emerges clearly: women are
demanding and using modern contraception in ever greater numbers, in every region, despite every obstacle.

Today, for example, implants are the most used method in 10 countries and the second most common method in another 14 countries. This represents a stark contrast with the method mix a decade ago when implants were not as widely available.

Unprecedented strain
The FP2030 report also suggests that despite the unprecedented strain COVID-19 placed on national health systems and global supply chains, and throughout restrictive lockdowns, an increasing number of people around the world continued to seek out and use family planning products and services.

“The scale of the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented,” said Dr Samukeliso Dube, Executive Director of FP203.

“And over the past 10 years, health systems have been buffeted by a number of threats, including natural disasters, violent conflicts, epidemics of Ebola and Zika, political shifts and changing economic conditions.”

Paired with the significant commitments made by governments and philanthropies, the new FP2030 report demonstrates the strength and resilience of a movement that has withstood a host of global challenges, as more and more countries and organisations recognise that voluntary, rights-based family planning is integral to their development and a major driver of gender equality.

Rights-based contraception
USAID made the first-ever FP2030 commitment, pledging US$15 million over five years, while governments, civil societies moved to advance family planning, vowing to expand access to voluntary, rights-based contraception. “The benefits of family planning are enormous, and have a multiplier effect,” added Dr. Dube.

“Family planning is the key to reducing maternal deaths; it is the difference between finishing high school and entering into early marriage and parenthood; and it can unlock a woman’s economic survival and prosperity. That is why we are delighted to welcome the announcement of the USAID’s decision to support FP2030.”

 

Hard-fought gains
While celebrating the good news today, Dr. Dube also indicated that in many places, access to family planning services is under attack. The recent United States Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation imperils not only abortion access, but also the right to contraception, the right to make personal medical decisions and potentially the right of LGBTQ individuals to marry and have children.

“Repressive movements around the world are threatening to roll back women’s rights, depriving people of bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom,” said Dr. Dube. “Despite the overwhelming demand for family planning, the progress of the last few years should not be taken for granted.”

 

Hold the line
Meanwhile, donor government funding for family planning is not keeping up with the growing demand for modern contraception. Data released revealed that bilateral donor funding totaled

approximately US$1.4 billion in 2021: essentially flat compared to 2020 but substantially lower than the peak achieved in 2019 (US$1.52 billion). Given current financial instability and inflationary trends around the world, there could be further funding cuts in the future. “Failing to adequately fund family planning efforts would be a missed opportunity for millions of women,” Dr. Dube noted.

“We need not only to hold the line, but also to secure new funding to accommodate the surge in demand for family planning. To ensure that the world stays on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030—including the intersecting goals of gender equality, health, and prosperity—investments in family planning must be safeguarded and strengthened.”