A new study by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA has found that an estimated 222 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for contraception, and that progress in addressing unmet need has been very slow, with the number of women with an unmet need in the poorest 69 countries having increased.
© Kate Holt/IRIN
Adding it Up: Costs and Benefits of Contraceptive Services provides the latest estimates for 2012 of unmet need for modern contraception in developing countries, and of the life-saving benefits of investments to address this unmet need.
The study found that the number of women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraception declined only slightly between 2008 and 2012, from 226 to 222 million. However, in the 69 poorest countries—where 73% of all women with unmet need for modern contraceptives reside—the number actually increased, from 153 to 162 million women. Many of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Unmet need for modern contraception is highest in Middle Africa, Western Africa, Eastern Africa, and Western Asia, where the proportion of women aged 15-49 who have an unmet need for modern methods ranges from 50% in Western Asia to 81% in Middle Africa.
The most substantial increases in use of modern contraceptive methods among married women have been seen in Eastern Africa (from 20% in 2008 to an estimated 27% in 2012) and in Southeast Asia (from 50% to 56%). Little change has taken place in Western Africa and Middle Africa, where less than 10% of married women use modern contraceptives.
In 2012 an estimated 80 million unintended pregnancies will occur in developing countries due to contraceptive failure and non-use among women who did not want to become pregnant. These unintended pregnancies will result in 30 million unplanned births, 40 million abortions, 10 milliion miscarriages, 104,000 pregnancy-related deaths.
The effects of addressing the current unmet need for modern contraceptive methods would be dramatic:
The report estimates that fully meeting all need for modern contraceptive methods would cost US$8.1 billion annually, requiring an additional investment of US$4.1 billion a year on top of the current spending of US$ 4.0 billion annually.
This additional annual investment of US$ 4.1 billion would save roughly US$ 5.7 billion a year in maternal and newborn health service costs.
The full report and a fact sheet are available on the Guttmacher website.
Read PSN’s fact sheet Investment in voluntary family planning programmes: Benefits and cost-saving effects, incorporating this latest research with data on world population projections.