November 14, 2012
NEW YORK (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)) -- Tens of millions of unplanned pregnancies -- and abortions -- could be avoided in developing countries if women were provided with more options, information on family planning and means to use birth control, according to a UN report released Wednesday.
But the annual report by the UN Population Fund said an estimated 222 million women -- many in the poorest developing countries -- lack access to the information and health care services they would need to help avoid unwanted pregnancies.
"The huge unmet need for family planning persists, despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals' rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children," the State of the World Population 2012 report said.
"For a majority of people in developing countries, especially the poorest ones, the power and means to determine the size of their families are scarce or inadequate," the report said.
The report noted that half of the estimated 80 million unintended pregnancies this year in developing countries will end in abortion.
Unwanted pregnancies were especially prevalent among teenagers and those belonging to ethnic minorities and poor communities. Lack of contraceptive supplies were a major reason for those pregnancies, it added.
"Access to family planning may also be restricted by forces, including poverty, negative social pressures, gender inequality and discrimination," the report noted. By contrast, when health care services and knowledge of family planning are available, women and girls can exit poverty, improve health and education, and promote gender equality.
It cited studies in Bangladesh that found that women who had access to family planning could earn wages one-third higher than those without such access. It said child mortality among women with access to the programme dropped by 46 per cent.
The report urged governments to provide quality and voluntary universal family planning, but warned that the efforts could cost more than 8 billion dollars a year.
It asked governments to radically increase financial support and political commitment to ensuring that "rights-based family planning is available to all who want it, when they want it, and that services, supplies and information are of high quality."
Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH