By Samantha Spooner
Nov. 13, 2015 | Mail & Guardian Africa
THREE years ago, at the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, the global community committed to increasing access to contraceptives for 120 million more women and girls by 2020. The findings have been encouraging. Today, according to a new report released by Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), more women than ever before have access to contraceptives and in the past three years alone there were an additional 24.4 million women.
This means that in the past year alone these women have averted, 80 million unintended pregnancies, 26.8 million unsafe abortions and 111,000 maternal deaths.
In an exclusive interview with Mail & Guardian Africa, almost five years from the 120 million goal post, we take stock of the progress that Africa has made with Melinda Gates, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation a key figure in this movement. She holds family planning and women and girls health as one of her top priorities.
“Family planning is vital,” said Melinda, “if women can space their births, they can then afford to feed and educate their children and to also participate in the economy. The woman will be able to lift her family out of situations of poverty because we know that they will plough their money back into the household.”
She was encouraged by the progress made across the continent, with the most rapid acceleration in modern contraceptive prevalence rate seen in Burundi, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, and Senegal. She explained that one of the areas of most concern though had been West Africa. A region which had, with an average of 5.5 children per woman, one of the highest fertility rates which results in many unplanned pregnancies that posed serious health risks for mothers and children.