WASHINGTON More emphasis is needed on family
planning issues in poor countries, the World Bank said on
Thursday, citing new data that it said showed 51 million
unplanned pregnancies occur because women lack access to
In a report released ahead of World Population Day on
Friday, the World Bank said another 25 million pregnancies in
developing countries occur because contraceptives are
incorrectly used or because birth control measures fail.
"It's simply tragic that so many leaders in poor countries
and their aid donors have allowed reproductive health programs
to fall off the radar," said Joy Phumaphi, World Bank vice
president for Human Development and a former health minister in
She said the issue was especially important now with
countries worried about climate change and how they will be
able to feed people if energy and fuel costs keep rising.
"Giving women access to modern contraception and family
planning also helps to boost economic growth while reducing
high birth rates so strongly linked with endemic poverty, poor
education, and high numbers of maternal and infant deaths,"
The World Bank said birth rates have fallen fastest in Asia
but at a slower pace in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the
population is growing at a rate of 2.5 percent a year, which
would double the number of people in Africa within 28 years.
By comparison, populations are growing by 1.2 percent a
year in Latin America and Asia, the Bank said.
The report, "Fertility Regulation Behaviors and Their
Costs: Contraception and Unintended Pregnancies in Africa and
Eastern Europe and Central Asia," said 35 countries in Africa
and in Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Djibouti and Yemen have the
world's highest birth rates with more than five children per
It said some 68,000 women die every year due to unsafe
abortions, while another 5.3 million suffer temporary or
permanent disability as a result.
The World Bank said poor women are less likely to use
contraceptives than women who are better off. Wealthier women
are more than three times likelier than poorer ones to have a
doctor or mid-wife to help with the births of their babies.
Sadia Chowdhury, a senior reproductive and child health
specialist at the World Bank, said it was crucial that
information about contraceptives be made more widely available
not only to women but also to men, local leaders and youths.
"Promoting girls' and women's education is just as
important in reducing birth rates in the long run as promoting
contraception and family planning," she said. "Education
becomes a form of social contraception for women," she added.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Vicki Allen)