The use of modern contraception is soaring around the world with an estimated 371 million women of reproductive age now using a modern method of family planning, a report by advocacy group Family Planning 2030 (FP2030) has revealed.
The reported increase in modern contraception use was reported in low- and lower-middle-income countries. The findings however indicate that 50 million women in 80 countries still used traditional birth control. The most common traditional method was withdrawal among married couples.
Dr. Samukeliso Dube, the Executive Director of FP2030 said women and girls sought modern contraception because they viewed it as a key to unlocking the potential for their lives.
“Think of young adolescent girls whose future depended on delayed childbearing until they can finish school or college or even further career. Women all over the world just want to be safe, they want to be healthy. And they want to be in control of their lives,” said Dube.
She suggested that the world must step up its efforts to provide the needed support to the demand for modern contraceptives across the world. “None of this should be controversial. But it often is. Because access to family planning is about shifting power,” she said. Dr.Sheila Macharia, the Managing Director of FP 2030 East and Southern Africa Regional Hub based in Nairobi, said while FP2030’s 2022 Measurement report shows growing demand for modern contraceptives, it also showed the remaining unmet needs.
Dr. Macharia noted that she has been inspired by the number of countries that have made the FP2030 commitments. “Which shows the importance our governments have placed on meeting our commitments,” said Macharia.
The FP2030 campaign stemmed from the famous London Family Planning Conference of 2012 attended by President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and other world leaders. The Government of Uganda recognizes the role family planning will play in the achievement of Uganda Vision 2040’s target to reduce the population growth rate from 3.2% to 2.4%, which will result in reaping the demographic dividend.
Uganda under a plan developed by the Ministry of Health committed to increasing the modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) for all women from 30.4% in 2020 to 39.6% by 2025 and reducing the unmet need for family planning from 17% in 2020 to 15% by 2025. Health Minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng in a document that URN has seen said Uganda will implement a rights-based approach to family planning. The ministers stressed the need to encourage voluntary family planning and limit coercion.
“In that respect, Uganda will promote access rather than use in order to promote the choice to use or none use,” Aceng pledged.
The FP2030’s 2022 Measurement Report, however, found that the funding for family planning has for many countries been flat since 2019. URN has seen separate documents by family planning advocates showing that the Ministry of Health has not adequately funded family planning services despite its FP2030 commitment.
The family Planning (FP) Budget Scorecard (FY 2019/20) showed that the ministry allocated Shillings 394.4 million of the required Shillings 77.5 billion. The FP2030 Measurement Report took a deep dive into 15 African countries, namely Uganda, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Togo.
It suggests that despite the unprecedented strain COVID-19 placed on national health systems and global supply chains, and throughout restrictive lockdowns, record numbers of people around the world continued to seek out and use family planning products and services.
“The past ten years have been full of obstacles for country health systems – wars, political upheavals, natural disasters, deadly disease outbreaks, and lately the COVID-19 pandemic – yet through it all, women everywhere have continued to seek out and use modern contraception in ever-growing numbers,” said Dr. Samukeliso Dube.
According to the report, 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 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.”Contraceptive use In Eastern and sub-Saharan Africa
The report found that contraceptive use among married and unmarried sexually active women aged 15-24 is generally higher in East and Southern Africa than in West Africa.
However, unmet need is still high in both regions and for both populations. In most of the 15 countries reviewed, more than one in five sexually active young women (aged 15-24) have an unmet need for contraception.
“This report shows us that despite progress in recent years, there is still much work to be done when it comes to meeting the needs of women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Jason Bremner, FP2030 Senior Director of Data and Measurement.
“If this rising demand is not met by high-quality services, consistent contraceptive supplies, and supportive policies and financing, it will be a missed opportunity for millions of women—and for our collective futures.”
Women’s marital status was also found to influence method use. Young married women aged 24-30 were found to rely on short-acting methods such as injections and pills and obtain these from government facilities, while most unmarried sexually active women aged 15-24 rely on condoms and obtain these from private health sources.
Implants were found to be the most used method in 10 countries and the second most common method in another 14. That according to the report represents a stark contrast with the method mix a decade ago, when implants were not as widely available.Stepping up progress
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 organizations recognize that voluntary, rights-based family planning is integral to their development and a major driver of gender equality.
At the same time, the report shows that donor government funding for family planning is not keeping up with the growing demand for modern contraception. While bilateral donor funding totaled approximately US$1.4 billion in 2021, this was essentially flat compared to 2020 and substantially lower than the peak achieved in 2019 (US$1.52 billion).
FP2030 fears that 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,” said Dr. Dube.
“We need not only to hold the line but also to secure new funding to accommodate the surge in demand for family planning. The hard-won gains of the last 10 years could slip away if we don’t act now,” she added.