World Contraception Day around the corner!

With World Contraception Day around the corner (Monday, September 26th), we'd like to give you an idea of just how important it is to improve awareness of and increase access to contraception. In an excerpt from our Fall 2009 issue of Reaching Out, we look at the overwhelming unmet need for contraception in Latin America and the Caribbean:


Contraceptive Crisis: Overwhelming need and dwindling funds 

The world is hurtling towards a contraceptive crisis. An estimated 200 million women around the globe lack contraception at a time when funding for sexual and reproductive services has dropped dramatically. The result, experts say, could be keeping poor women around the world from exercising their basic right to determine whether and when to get pregnant, with a resulting  population surge that would jeopardize the health of millions of poor and marginalized families, threaten food and water supplies, disrupt economic stability and reverse fragile humanitarian gains made in developing nations. 

On the surface, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) stand out as shining examples of what dedication and financial support for sexual and reproductive services can accomplish. Contraceptive use in the region has reached an average 71 percent—equal to most developed regions—the number of service delivery outlets offering sexual and reproductive health services has risen, as well as the number of women accessing those services. But looks can be deceiving. “In one sense the [region] is a victim of its own success,” says Carmen Barroso, Regional Director at the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR). “Enormous progress in certain countries, regions and segments of the population” has obscured problems in areas where the poor continue to be neglected. For example, in Brazil contraception use hovers around 79 percent, compared to Haiti, where it strives for 25 percent. 

Great strides in some parts of LAC have prompted governmental organizations and donors to funnel funding for family planning to Africa and Asia, thinking the region no longer needs the same level of support. Population assistance from USAID to Latin America and the Caribbean plunged from over $80 million in 1996 to only about $37 million in 2007. The consequence is even sharper inequalities in reproductive health along economic lines, skyrocketing adolescent fertility rates (girls from the poorest one fifth of the population are four times more likely to become pregnant than those in the richest one fifth), high maternal morbidity and mortality due to unsafe abortions, epidemic rates of AIDS-related deaths, and overtaxed organizations like IPPF’s Western Hemisphere Region and its Member Associations, which stepped in to pick up the financial slack.

The urgency of the problem only becomes clearer when you consider what lies ahead. “Global demand for contraception is projected to grow by 40 percent over the next 15 years,” explains IPPF’s director-general Gill Greer. “In developing countries alone, there will be an estimated 764 million contraceptive users in 2015.” Given ample resources, this bump in demand would be a positive sign of progress. Deciding when and how many children to have is not just a basic human right and a health benefit to women and their families, it is an essential ingredient in human and economic growth.



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