WASHINGTON—The United Nations Population Fund says an estimated 222 million women in developing countries lack access to family planning information and supplies that puts them at risk of unintended pregnancy.
The UNFPA, released “State of the World Population 2012: By Choice, Not By Chance,” in London last month, with several cities around the globe holding concomitant press conferences, including Washington, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Geneva, and Bangkok. The report makes the case that there is a huge unmet need for family planning services, especially in developing countries, and that women are asking for these services.
In portions of the populations, even in developed countries as in the U.S. and Europe, “high levels of unintended pregnancy exist, especially among adolescents, the poor, and ethnic minorities,” says the report summary.
“The need is most acute in poorer countries, but the evidence is clear that in rich countries, young people and disadvantaged populations in particular face high levels of unintended pregnancy,” said Margaret Greene, lead author of the report at Washington’s National Press Club.
The main problem, however, lies in developing countries where many women lack the means to delay pregnancies and childbearing, the report says. The women do not have access to modern contraceptive methods, although they may be using less effective traditional methods.
The report makes the startling statement that female “sterilization is the most commonly used method of contraception in the world, relied upon by more than one in five married women.” The highest sterilization rates are in Latin America and Central America, with the Dominican Republic, leading at 47 percent, says the report.
Male sterilizations lag behind women in nearly all regions, except Canada and United Kingdom, where twice the number of men than women have undergone sterilization. More typical is Columbia. Nearly 31 percent of all women in Columbia have been sterilized, compared to two percent of men.
Family planning is regarded as a human right by UNFPA, Greene describing that right as “the ability to choose when and how many children to have and to avoid having children by chance.” As a “right,” all women should have access to high quality information and counseling on family planning, to contraceptives, and not to have to face discrimination, social pressures, and violence in their reproductive lives, she said.
The cost to the global community to meet the unmet needs of family planning for 222 million women is estimated by UNFPA to be $8.1 billion, which is an additional $4.1 billion to what is allocated now.
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