More women and girls in low-income countries are using family planning than ever before, but global efforts to widen access to contraception are still falling well behind targets, a report said.
One year away from a global deadline to widen access to modern forms of family planning, such services are accessible to less than half of the women that policymakers hoped to reach.
The report by the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) was released ahead of the 25th International Conference on Population and Development Summit in Nairobi, which started yesterday, where governments are expected to make further pledges on family planning and other reproductive health spending.
FP2020, a self-described “global movement” founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the British government, works with governmental and nongovernmental partners to promote goals set at a conference in London in 2012.
About 314 million women and girls are now using modern contraception, according to the study, which is focused on 69 low-income countries and uses statistics from national surveys, health services and UN population data.
A new report shows that 314 million women and girls in 69 low-income countries — out of 926 million of child-bearing age —- now use contraceptive methods like condoms, pills and birth control implants, the study showed.
The report found that 53 million women have begun using contraceptives since 2012, up 2 percent, but still far fewer than the 120 million women experts had hoped to reach by next year.
Whether or not such global targets are met is determined by the progress made in a handful of countries with high populations, FP2020 director of data and performance management Jason Bremner said.
“There are around 900 million women of reproductive age across the 69 countries, but those 900 million women are not evenly distributed across the 69 countries,” he said.
He cited, countries with large populations, such as India, where there are about 300 million women of reproductive age, and which struggled to meet — and subsequently scaled down — ambitious targets set in 2012.
India is now within reach of achieving its revised targets, Bremner added, but needs to improve the range of family planning methods available to women.
About four in 10 women of reproductive age in India are accessing family planning., the report said, adding that among these women, three-quarters have been sterilized.
Recent research suggests that fewer young women are opting for sterilization, Bremner said, but the figure remains high compared with other methods listed in annual data because the procedure is permanent.
As countries attempt to widen access to family planning, many have also seen an increase in the number of women of reproductive age, Bremmen said.
“Even if we were to keep the prevalence [of women accessing services] the same from year to year, to do that we would have to serve more women,” he said. “In Uganda, the number of users almost doubled [from 1.6 million in 2012 to 3.1 million in 2019]. That’s a great accomplishment,” he added.
Among the 69 countries included in the report, only nine countries are on track to surpass targets set for next year. These countries are Mozambique, Chad, Cameroon, Kyrgyz Republic, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Sri Lanka.
The biggest improvement in access to modern contraception was across eastern and southern Africa, where the proportion of women accessing services has grown by 7 percentage points since 2012.
Despite an increase in women accessing reproductive health services globally, there are concerns that such progress has been put at risk by the Mexico City policy, also known as the “global gag rule,” signed in 2017 by US President Donald Trump.
The policy blocked US funds to any organizations involved in abortion advice and care overseas.
The US remained one of the seven biggest donors last year — along with Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK — though this is partly due to delays in distributing funding from previous years.
Additional reporting by AFP
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