Marie Stopes International Australia

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Family planning: Why it’s time we face up to the future

3 June 2014 | Maternal Health

Where we work in Papua New Guinea everyone knows a woman who has died in childbirth. Availability and knowledge of contraception is limited and to reduce the chance of falling pregnant, many husbands and wives don’t sleep in the same bed.

Sadly theirs is not an isolated experience. Today an estimated 222 million women in the developing world who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern method of contraception. But when you look just a few years into the future, the picture becomes even more daunting.

In 2010 there were 193 million women of reproductive age living in sub Saharan Africa, but in the coming years, the number will grow at the fastest rate in history. By 2020, there will be 258 million and in 2050 the numbers soar to 529 million.

Accessing healthcare differently

Women and girls are accessing healthcare differently too, with a third of all women who use contraception in African countries buying it from pharmacies or private providers rather than traditional clinics. This week we published our Global Impact Report, which is an honest look at how we’re rising to meet the challenge.

It shows how across the world we are working with more than 3,000 private healthcare providers in 17 countries, to increase the availability of high quality sexual and reproductive health services. For example, in Papua New Guinea we are partnering with local health authorities and providing services from government health facilities to reach people in even the remotest areas of the country.

Partnering with UN air service

While in conflict-torn South Sudan, where many of the roads become impassable during the seven month rainy season and the risk of violence is high, we have partnered with the UN humanitarian air service to fly our teams to isolated areas, where women would otherwise be out of reach.

We’ve also adapted our outreach model, setting up teams who can travel to the peripheries of cities where we know residents can’t afford travel or healthcare. Women like Mary from South Sudan, who became pregnant while she was still at school.

Free service

Some days Mary can’t afford to eat and another child would make her life even more precarious. After counselling at a Marie Stopes outreach session in Juba, she chose to have an IUD, which was fitted free of charge, meaning she no longer has to worry about another unplanned pregnancy.

What is clear now more than ever is that to help the millions of people like Mary and to Make Women Matter, not only are we going to have to drastically step up our efforts, we will also have to be nimble and responsive to their needs.

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