UN Report Calls for Increased Access to Family Planning

K4Health Highlights

Elizabeth Futrell

(Formerly) CCP | Content Development Lead

New K4Health Family Planning Advocacy Toolkit Can Help

Siblings in the remote area of Gairi, Dolakha District, Nepal

Siblings in the remote area of Gairi, Dolakha District, Nepal.

© 2011 Sirish B.C., Courtesy of Photoshare

In 2011, the United Nations predicted that the world’s population would grow to 9.3 billion by 2050. In the newly published Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision, however, the UN has now increased its projection of world population to 9.6 billion by 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100. This means that nearly 4 billion more people will inhabit the earth by the end of the century.

But what about fertility decline?

This projected increase comes despite rapidly decreasing fertility rates in many countries. Japan’s birth rate, for example, has fallen to 1.39 children per women, well below the replacement rate. Though Japan is an oft-cited example of fertility decline, journalist David Brooks noted last year that almost half the global population lives in countries with birthrates below the replacement level. Even in the Middle East, where we often hear about the “youth bulge,” birth rates are falling dramatically. On average, Brooks pointed out, a woman in Oman has 5.6 fewer babies today than a woman in Oman 30 years ago. Fertility rates in Morocco, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have declined nearly 60 percent, and in Iran, fertility rates have fallen more than 70 percent. The authors of the UN report expect that the population of developed countries will change very little between now and 2050, hovering just below 1.3 billion.

So where will the world’s billions of new inhabitants come from?

Children at a family planning event in Togo

Children at a family planning event in Togo.

© 2012 Katy Doyle, Courtesy of Photoshare

Nearly all growth will occur in the population of developing countries, which is projected to rise from 5.8 billion today to 8.2 billion in 2050 and 9.6 billion in 2100. Particularly in Africa, fertility rates remain quite high, especially in lower-income nations. In fact, the 49 least developed countries are expected to double in size from roughly 900 million people today to 1.8 billion people in 2050 and 2.9 billion in 2100.

Women in Nigeria, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Uganda have more than five children on average, and this is not expected to change in the coming decades. Half of all population growth between now and 2100 will occur in just eight countries: those listed in the previous sentence, as well as India, Tanzania, and the United States. After 2028, India will surpass China and become the world’s most populous country.

In contrast to aging nations like Japan, the proportion of children and young people in less developed countries is at an all time high: there are now 1.7 billion children younger than 15 and 1.1 billion young people ages 15-24 in the developing world. In the least developed countries, children younger than 15 make up 40 percent of the population, and young people account for another 20 percent. In these areas, already facing steep economic challenges, creativity and innovation will be needed to feed, educate, employ, and provide health services—including family planning—to this growing young population.

Many people who want to use family planning still do not have access. The consequences are dire.

Population of the world, 1950-2100, according to different projections and variants

Population of the world, 1950-2100, according to different projections and variants.

The UN calculated its new population projections assuming that fertility rates will decline. Fertility in less developed parts of the world is projected to fall from 2.69 children per woman to 2.29 in 2045-2050 and 1.99 in 2095-2100. In the 49 least developed countries, fertility rates are expected to drop from 4.53 children per women to 2.87 children per woman in 2045-50 and to 2.11 in 2095-2100. Increased access to family planning is essential for this to occur. Yet currently, 23 percent of women in the least developed countries wish to limit or space their pregnancies but are not using contraception. If this does not change, the population of less developed regions will rise to 27.5 billion in 2100. In other words, without increased access to family planning, the world population by the end of the century could reach nearly 6 times the current UN projections.

New Family Planning Advocacy Toolkit Helps Make the Case for Expanding Access to Services

Ensuring access to voluntary family planning is a cost effective, powerful strategy that can advance sustainable development throughout the world. The new K4Health Family Planning Advocacy Toolkit contains a carefully selected collection of state-of-the-art information and tools for effective family planning advocacy at all levels.

What does the Toolkit offer?

  • Evidence of the links between family planning and other development issues, including health, economic development, the environment, food security, education, and poverty reduction.
  • Guidance on the policy process, key policy commitments and calls to action, information on funding and resource management, and country examples of policy influence.
  • Guidance and tools for designing an advocacy strategy.
  • Tools for effective communication for family planning advocacy, including resources for communication skills development; state-of-the-art family planning advocacy communication tools; guidance on engaging faith-based organizations, religious and spiritual leaders, and other champions; and information on how to work with the media. 
  • Ready-to-use data and evidence in support of voluntary family planning.
  • Monitoring and evaluation resources.

Family planning advocates have a unique opportunity to capitalize on the momentum from the 2012 London Summit for Family Planning and the resulting Family Planning 2020 goal of delivering contraceptives, information and services to a total of 380 million women of reproductive age by the year 2020. The Family Planning Advocacy Toolkit can help advocates, donors, policy makers, champions, program managers, communication specialists, and others meet the challenge of making sure the right messages reach the right audiences at the right times to ensure that those in need of family planning services have access.