Promoting Access to Family Planning in Developing States



The WHO recognizes both sexual and reproductive health and access to family planning as human rights. Family planning is defined as services leading up to conception. Aside from its humanitarian importance, family planning can have long lasting positive effects on both a country’s economy and its overall quality of life. The ultimate goal of family planning on a national level should be to break the poverty cycle, preventing millions of deaths related to lack of family planning (namely, maternal and infant deaths)  and thereby improving the overall quality of life. Therefore, developing States - that mostly have poor access to family planning methods-  may benefit greatly from improved access to these measures.



The biggest part of family planning is the accessibility and usage of modern contraception methods. 12% of the world is in need of contraception, but in least developed countries, these numbers shift. In those countries, 22% of the population does not have access to contraceptives and only 40% use contraception. These numbers often double for the poorer communities in these countries. This leaves 38% of the population that would have access to birth control, but do not use it. Contributing to it are a multitude of factors: lack of education on the subject, personal/cultural believes, spouses disapproval, limited choice of methods, fear of side-effects, poor quality of available services, user or provider bias, social stigma or gender-based barriers in general. In many cases women without access to modern birth control methods will resort to using all sorts of traditional methods, „home remedies“ and unsafe methods of abortion, many of which pose a serious threat to their health.

Currently, approximately 214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraception method. Fulfilling the need of these women alone would lead to reduced pregnancy health risks, reduced maternity and infantry deaths and a reduced need for unsafe abortions and their often deadly complications.

It is important to note that both the UN and WHO do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, but as a separate issues regarding reproductive health. The topic will therefore not be part of the discussion.

Other methods of family planning include adoption, infertility management and the prevention and management of STDs. Family planning programs also rely heavily on sexual education. All important to all aspects of family planning are reliable supply chains, trained medical personnel and a sufficient medical care (facilities and equipment etc) all around.


Family planning as part of developmental aid

Addressing the lack of accessibility of family planning will not only help with overall public health and quality of life in developing nations, it is a vital key in both the empowerment of women and solving the issue of overpopulation.

In developed nations, access to family planning has shown to give countries an economic  and humanitarian advantage. With women pursuing higher education and joining the workforce, families are able to invest more in each child. Having fewer children can also be linked to higher levels of education in general, which is known to positively affect the quality of life overall. Teenage pregnancies have shown the opposite effects.


It should be noted that NGOs can play a critical role in providing family planning, where national programs might fail. Both in humanitarian crisis and very rural areas, NGOs have shown to be very effective in fulfilling the need for family planning by working very intimately with the population and understanding subtleties of different communities.


The main focus areas of the WHO in regards to family planning

      Improvement of family planning service delivery in humanitarian crisis

      Reducing early and unwanted pregnancies in adolescents

      Ensuring contraceptive security through effective supply chains

      Securing a high standard for their family planning services

      Providing access to emergency contraception

      Lowering cases of HIV


The sensitivity of the issue

However, it is important to note that the WHOs views on family planning (including things like access to contraception) are heavily based on liberal western ideals. Much like multiple human rights recognized by the UN, many of the ideas and programs put forth by the WHO should be critically regarded as controversial in some cultures and regions. Solutions therefore should be thorough, detailed and tailored to specific cultures and regions.They should also contribute to pre-established programs and solutions already in place.



In conclusion, family planning programs play a very important role in a comprehensive and throughout development strategy. They can have the greatest of impact on developing nations around the world and also address the pressing issue of overpopulation.