New York, US - Ahead of the International Women’s Day on 8 March, the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday released a set of recommendations for countries to ensure that women, girls and couples have access to the tools needed to avoid unwanted pregnancies, thereby improving health and allowing for better family planning.
Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Family, Women and Children’s Health, in a statement, said ensuring availability and accessibility to the information and services they needed was crucial, not only to protect their rights, but also their health.
She said these unintended pregnancies could pose a major threat to their own and their children’s health and lives.
She noted that an estimated 222 million girls and women who did not want to get pregnant or who wanted to delay their next pregnancy were not using any method of contraception.
Dr. Bustreo stressed that access to contraception information and services would allow better planning for families and improved health.
'In low- and middle-income countries, complications of pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading cause of death in young women aged 15-19 years.
'Stillbirths and death in the first week of life are 50 per cent higher among babies born to mothers younger than 20 years than among babies born to mothers 20–29 years old.'
Dr Bustreo also said that the populations most vulnerable to this lack of access to contraception services were young, poor, and lived in rural areas and urban slums.
The WHO official, however, said that efforts had been made to address this need since the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, where a commitment was made to allow family planning services to reach at least 120 million people more by the year 2020.
Dr. Marleen Temmerman, Director of WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said: 'It is not just about increasing numbers, it is also about increasing knowledge.'
According to her it was vital for women and men to understand how contraception worked, be offered a choice of methods, and be happy with the method they received.
The statement said that WHO’s guidance recommended that every individual seeking contraception should be able to obtain 'detailed and accurate information, as well as a variety of services such as counselling and contraceptive products, in a non-discriminatory, non-coercive and non-violent environment'.
The guidance noted the importance for countries to provide 'scientifically accurate sex education programmes for young people, including information on how to use and acquire contraceptives'.
It stated that women and adolescents should be able to request contraceptive help without having to obtain authorization from their husbands, parents or guardians.