Contraceptive Use in Poorer Nations is Increasing—And Saving Lives

The human rights organization Family Planning 2020 released a report last week detailing the progress it has made towards promoting and facilitating the use of safe and affordable contraceptives in impoverished nations—and how that work is saving and changing lives.

DFID / Creative Commons

The FP2020 initiative, launched in 2012, works in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as individual governments, to increase the voluntary use of contraception in poorer nations. According to Executive Director Beth Schlacter, FP2020’s primary goal is to “empower women and girls by investing in rights-based family planning.”

With the recent insurgence of opposition towards women’s health and contraceptive care abroad—such as the Trump administration’s reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule and attacks on Planned Parenthood by Congressional lawmakers—Schlacter knows that “for all of us who believe that rights-based family planning is fundamental to achieving a healthier, more prosperous, just and equitable world, these are uncertain times.” But FP2020 is pushing on.

“There may be uncertainties on the horizon,” says Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA and Co-Chair of the FP2020 Reference Group, “but our community’s dedication to women and girls is stronger than ever.”

According to the 2017 report, entitled The Way Ahead, 309 million women and girls in FP2020’s 69 focus countries utilized modern contraceptive devices as of July—38.8 million more than when the program was initially established. In sum, FP 2020’s efforts resulted in the prevention of 84 million unintended pregnancies, 26 million unsafe abortions and 125,000 maternal deaths.

The report identifies Africa and certain Asian countries, such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh as accounting for the largest percentage of contraceptive users within the focus group. The unmet need for modern contraceptive methods in regions such as East and South Africa has purportedly also dropped by more than three percentage points since the organization’s inaugural year. The report also examines the preferred means of contraception—finding injectables to be the most commonly utilized method in 28 countries, whereas women and girls in 16 of the nations opt to use pills, in nine use condoms and in eight use IUDs.

Schlacter believes that FP 2020’s revolutionary platform is the key to addressing the prevalence of unsafe pregnancies and abortive procedures in more impoverished nations. “FP2020 provides space for governments and civil society to connect, for experts to share their knowledge, for donors to align their investments for maximum effectiveness and for the global family planning community to take joint action on critical issues.”

At a Family Planning Summit held in July and hosted by the United Nations Foundation, FP2020 renewed all existing commitments with focus countries and funding organizations and fostered 25 new partnerships with nations including Chad, Haiti and South Sudan. With an Expert Advisory Committee assemblage of 140 technical experts and a reference team of 23 members, FP2020 is equipped to combat sustainability challenges with definitive action plans that are specific to each nation within its focus faction.

“We’re witnessing significant growth in access to contraceptives, supported by strong engagement from governments and civil society,” Dr. Chris Elias, President of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Co-Chair of the FP2020 Reference Group, said. “Young women are counting on leaders to deliver because access to contraceptives helps millions of women and girls lead healthy, productive lives.”

Sarah Alexander is a recent graduate of Cal State Northridge. In addition to being a writer, she is a visual and performing artist, and attempts to use film, music and online platforms to spark conversation about social activism. She is an anomalous LA native, which affects her personality in a plethora of unique ways.

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Sarah Samantha Alexander is a writer, actor, and musician from Los Angeles, CA. She attempts to use visual and performative arts to spark meaningful conversation about social and political activism. She currently teaches Special Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Find her on Instagram or at her Website.