Use of family planning, although still low at 18 percent for the region as a whole, has increased dramatically in some countries. Yet another 22 million married women--an additional 25 percent--indicate a desire to delay or avoid another pregnancy, but are not using contraception. This "unmet need" for family planning in Africa is higher than in any other region; of 12 countries where such need exceeds 30 percent of married women, 11 are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Africa faces many other reproductive health challenges. Frequent childbearing, high levels of maternal mortality, and an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS, all take their toll. With only ten percent of the worlds women, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 40 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths. During her lifetime, an African woman has a 1 in 15 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth--odds over 200 times greater than those faced by women in the United States. About 22,000 African women die each year from unsafe abortion, reflecting both legal restrictions on abortion and limited access to contraception. Meanwhile, the AIDS epidemic has already killed more than 4 million Africans and an estimated 21 million adults and children are infected with HIV/AIDS. Further jeopardizing womens health is the traditional practice of female genital mutilation which affects 110 million women in the region.
The task of addressing these and other
social needs is doubly onerous in countries--such as in sub-Saharan
Africa--with rapidly growing populations. Today, fewer than half of
Africans have access to basic health care. The proportion of children
enrolled in primary school has actually fallen since the 1980s. Women are
disadvantaged in access to educational and eco
Contact: Sally Ethelston
Population Action International