Oct. 8, 2015 | Devex

Let’s begin with a hard truth: unplanned pregnancy is for many a matter of life and death. Every two minutes a woman dies due to pregnancy-related complications — a grim transformation of what should be one of the happiest times into one of the most dangerous.

For other women, unplanned pregnancy stands in the way of the future they want for themselves and their families. And because we know the health of mothers, newborns and children go hand in hand, unplanned pregnancy can have devastating long-term consequences for families, too.

It is little surprise that whenever I ask women living in the poorest countries whether they want the education and means to time and space their pregnancies almost every single one says they do. Yet within the same breath, they confide in me that they’re not doing anything about it — almost always for reasons beyond their control.

Sadi told me on a visit to Niger that she is desperate not to have any more children — but that her only option is to hope and pray.

Today there are more than 220 million such women around the world for whom gaining access to contraceptives is a matter of urgency. This is the magnitude of our challenge.

We took a big step toward addressing this unmet need in 2012, when the world committed to ensure that, by 2020, 120 million more women and girls in the poorest countries have access to the education, services and the method of contraception they want and choose to use. It is an ambitious yet achievable goal — and an important stepping stone to the ultimate vision of universal access to contraception.

Just one year after the pledge — thanks to the collective efforts of governments, NGOs, the private sector and others — an additional 8.4 million women and girls were using contraceptives. Nonetheless, the most recent data show us that our progress isn’t yet matching the scale of our ambition. Not only are we failing to move fast enough, we are falling further behind each year.

The good news is that we still have time to change that trajectory. But only if we act now. The data and evidence point to several opportunities to make up lost ground. Let me mention three that stand out.

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