Home / News / News archive / 2011 / December 2011 / Family planning push in sub-Saharan Africa

Family planning push in sub-Saharan Africa

Experts, advocates and campaigners in birth control gathered in Senegal to tackle family planning.

About 43 per cent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is under 15 – but just 10 per cent of women in the west of the region can get hold of the pill.

In the world’s poorest countries about 40 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned and nearly half of those end in abortion, most of which are dangerous.

Complications in pregnancy and birth kill an about 47,000 women a year.

This year the world welcomed its seven billionth baby. And preventing women in poorer countries dying in pregnancy and childbirth is a major goal in global development.

The talks, in Senegal’s capital, Dakar heard that things are starting to improve. The Gates Foundation is putting in £45m a year and Britain, the Netherlands and France are also putting up funding.

But that still is not enough. People at the conference heard that only 48 per cent of women who had an abortion in Ghana’s capital city Accra, were given contraception to take home.

In Pikine, on the edges of Dakar, it is not uncommon to have more than eight children and for the children to have to sleep on the floor.

"Here we are in a very poor environment,” said the local mayor, Aliou Diouck. “Men and women do not work. What's going to happen? They will just have sex. When you have nothing to do, it's the main occupation," he told the Guardian.

Even so, staff at Pikine’s health centre say that only about five or six per cent of local women go there for family planning. And last year they had hormonal contraceptives available for most of the year.

One reason why so few people go there to pick up contraceptives, said Monica Kerrigan, from the Gates Foundation, is that orders for supplies went were made based on how many people wanted them, which would fall when stocks ran out.

"We have to learn a lot from the HIV world. They made antiretroviral drugs a top priority."

Dan Pellegrom, from family planning charity Pathfinder International says the movement needs to work harder.

More family planning means fewer abortions and fewer women dying from backstreet abortions, he said. And it would highlight some problems. "It is so important to understand that most of the people who claim to be opposed to abortion are equally opposed to family planning – they just don't talk about it," he says.

Hayley attribution