Worldwide, 222 million women want to delay or avoid pregnancy but have no access to modern contraceptives. If they did, this would help prevent 21 million unwanted pregnancies; 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths.
Widening access to reproductive health, including family planning, is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals agreed on by the international community to be achieved by 2015. It reduces maternal and child mortality, prevents sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and allows people to have responsible, satisfying and safe sexual and reproductive lives.
Family planning in particular gives individuals and couples the means to decide freely and responsibly if, when and how often to have children. It is key to ensuring that women benefit from good reproductive health and enjoy a life of opportunities. It also allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children, and to achieve healthy spacing and timing of their births.
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Werner Haug is the UNFPA’s Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.