October 11, 2001
HEADLINE: A Fertile Future?
In the developing world, access to existing contraceptives
would save lives.
NEW contraceptives may be desirable. But it would also help
if existing ones were distributed to those who need them. According to the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA), roughly 350m couples lack access to a full range of modern
contraceptives (see chart). Millions of others are missing even the most basic knowledge
of what is possible. As a result, there are as many as 100m unwanted pregnancies each
year. A fifth of these end in unsafe abortion. More than half-a-million women a year die
According to Tracy Clarke, of the International Planned
Parenthood Federation, improving access to contraception in the developing world will take
a lot of money. The contraceptives themselves are cheap. The problem is that aid agencies
need lots of them, and donor countries have been cutting their budgets. According to
UNFPA, unless donors increase their contributions, international efforts to provide
contraceptives to all those who need them will be short of $100m a year by 2015.
Greater political will is also necessary. Poor-country
governments need to start thinking about contraception as an essential public-health
measure, and to provide money and manpower to ensure a continuous supply in the field.
Abolishing such obstacles as heavy taxes on imported contraceptives would help. And access
in the developing world would improve even more if the American government rescinded its
ban on financing any groups that offer abortion. That ties the hands of family-planning
organisations which offer contraception as well as termination.
The provision of old contraceptives and the development of
new ones do not yet feature prominently in today's arguments over better access to
medicines in the developing world. They should. Fertility is certainly not a disease, but
there are millions around the world who are still struggling to avoid pregnancy like the
GRAPHIC: In the developing world, access to existing
contraceptives would save lives
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[NOTE: To respond to this article, email the editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org mailto:email@example.com
Other resources include: link
-- United Nations Population Fund; link -- Population
Action International; link -- fact sheets
on "Saving Women's Lives" including contraceptive security; link -- a journalist website with links to other
sites and information
The above analysis was written by Elena M. H.
Cabatu and Kathy Bonk at the Communications Consortium Media Center, 1200 New York Avenue,
NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005, 202/326-8700.
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