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The challenge

A global crisis looms as millions of women cannot access the contraception and safe abortion services that could transform their lives.


Our world today

Right now, there are 214 million women around the world who want to use contraception but can’t. Millions more don’t have access to safe abortions and so they resort to unsafe and life-threatening methods in a desperate attempt to end a pregnancy. The impact of this lack of contraceptive and safe abortion services is far-reaching – not just for the women concerned, but the communities they live in, and society as a whole.

women die from unsafe abortion every year
women resort to unsafe abortion every year
is needed to provide modern contraception worldwide

The challenge

While the combined efforts of our sector have dramatically increased the number of women using contraception in many developing countries, the need for contraception and safe abortion services continues to grow every year.

Vast numbers of people lack the services they need to be able to choose when and whether they have children.

The human cost of this lack of services is staggering. Each year in the developing world, an estimated 99 million unintended pregnancies occur due to a lack of contraceptive access or contraception failing. Of these unintended pregnancies, 55.9 million end in abortion, around half of which are unsafe [1].

In human terms, this translates to some 22,800–31,000 lives unnecessarily lost each year, and cause serious illness and long-term disability for millions more.

And it’s not just people’s health that suffers. Without adequate access to contraception, women are often unable to access an education, or have a career. Many find it very difficult to look after their large families without adding another to their numbers. Many live in extreme poverty.

At a wider level, whole communities can suffer, as large numbers of women are unable to engage in their local economies, while looking after their ever-growing families.

This is a critical, global issue – one which is growing and will affect all of us. As demographics change, with lower infant mortality rates, population growth and the largest generation of young people in history now becoming sexually active, the need for contraception and safe abortion services is increasing by the day. And the need to take strong action to address the situation becomes ever more urgent.

Contraception changes lives. It allows women to take control of their futures – and in doing so, it drives economic and social development.

What must be done

As demand for contraception continues to rise, we must work together to go further, and do more to ensure that every woman who wants to choose her family size has that choice.

We need to redouble our efforts to reach as many women as we can. And the only way to meet the challenges of the coming years is by being smarter about what services to provide, how to make them sustainable, and how to fund them. Our ‘Scaling-Up Excellence’ strategy sets out how we intend to do this over the next five years.

We know – from our many years of providing these services all over the world – that contraception changes lives. We also know that opening up access to it reaches far beyond the individual; that it is a critical ingredient in tackling poverty and creating more equitable societies.

We believe that access to contraception and safe abortion has to sit at the heart of any development activity. That it represents one of the most valuable investments in terms of achieving the world’s development goals. And that by committing resources to this area, donors and governments can have a marked impact, not just on health and human rights, but on many other pressing issues, from water and sanitation, to the environment and food supply.

When contraception use increases, states can have higher levels of economic growth, become less dependent on foreign aid, see more girls continue their education, become more stable and secure, and have less gender inequality.

We need to take urgent action now to help millions more women access the services that could transform their lives.

1 Invest in contraception and safe abortion

Investment in contraception and safe abortion pays enormous social and economic dividends, yet funding for contraception made up only 1% of overseas development aid from OECD donor countries in 2012. There are compelling social and economic reasons to invest in this area and we urge donors to channel more of their resources in this direction.

2 Evolve to increase impact

To have maximum impact, we have to prioritise getting services into the countries and clients groups where we can make the biggest difference. New technologies provide real opportunities for connecting directly with clients, for improving quality and efficiency, and for increasing contraceptive choices. But to realise these opportunities, we need to keep adapting and evolving, both to our clients’ shifting needs and the changing healthcare landscape. Standing still isn’t an option.

3 Scale-up sustainably

Getting more services into communities is a crucial part of what needs to happen next. That means using our collective influence to shape markets and policy, keeping a strong focus on results and the impact of programmes, and drawing on innovative funding and delivery models that enable more women and governments to access much-needed services. To be truly sustainable, we need to make access to contraception and safe abortion affordable to women and governments, not just today but in 2020, 2030 and beyond. Our ‘Scaling-Up Excellence’ strategy sets out how we intend to meet this challenge over the next five years.

4 Leave no woman or community behind

Millions of women and communities are in urgent need of our services – and that thought has to keep driving us forward as we look to bring new, high quality programmes to market at scale. We know the difference contraception and safe abortions can make to individual women’s lives. By providing thoughtful care to every client, we can have a wider influence at a community and society level as well: challenging stigma, reducing policy restrictions, and improving the way healthcare is provided.

What we're doing

We exist to empower women and men to have children by choice, not chance. In 37 countries around the world our courageous and passionate teams are going to the last mile to help millions of women access the contraception and safe abortions they need to take greater control of their lives. Learn more about the services we provide and how they’re making a difference.

Scaling-Up Excellence

Our ‘Scaling-Up Excellence’ strategy sets out how we intend to meet this challenge over the next five years.

Learn about our strategy

Delivering services

We’ve been providing life-changing reproductive health services for over 40 years. Every day we see how our services are improving the lives of the women we serve.

Learn about our services

Clients at the centre

We go the last mile to reach women, working hard to understand their unique challenges, and tailoring our services and solutions accordingly.

Learn about our approach

Global in scale

Learn how we're scaling up reproductive healthcare in 37 countries, and the work we're doing on the ground with local and national governments.

Our global reach

Empower millions of women globally to take control of their fertility and futures.

Your donation will help us to provide contraception, safe abortion and family planning services to millions of women and communities worldwide.