A new study by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reveals that the efforts of global family planning programs fall far short of what is needed to effectively address unmet need for family planning in the developing world. The authors of Adding it Up: Costs and Benefits of Contraceptive Services—Estimates for 2012 estimate that the level of unmet need for contraception—defined as the number of fecund, sexually active women who wish to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraception—fell only slightly from 226 million in 2008 to 222 million in 2012. Alarmingly, in the world’s 69 poorest countries—home to 73% of all women with unmet need—the number of women with unmet need for contraception has actually increased from 153 million to 162 million since 2008.
A smiling woman in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania. © 2011 Arturo Sanabria, Courtesy of Photoshare
While the number of women in the developing world using modern contraceptive methods rose from 603 million to 645 million between 2008 and 2012, a closer look at these numbers reveals that more than half of this increase is due simply to population growth rather than to a higher contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR). CPR increased more noticeably during this time period in Eastern Africa (from 20% to 27%) and Southeast Asia (from 50% to 56%) than in Western Africa and Middle Africa, where little change was observed and fewer than 10% of married women currently use modern contraceptive methods.