Each Year Approximately Half a Million Cameroonian Women Have an Unintended Pregnancy
Low levels of modern contraceptive use are taking a toll on women in Cameroon, their families and the country’s health care system, according to “Benefits of Meeting the Contraceptive Needs of Cameroonian Women,” a new report released today in Yaoundé by the Institut de Formation et de Recherche Démographiques (IFORD) and the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute. The report documents the current state of family planning in the country and the considerable health and financial benefits that would result from increased investment in contraceptive services.
In 2013, approximately 2.3 million sexually active Cameroonian women wanted to delay having a child (72%) or wanted no more children (28%). However, the study found that just 37% of these women were using a modern contraceptive method. Another 18% relied on traditional methods, and 45% used no method at all. This low level of contraceptive use results in high rates of unintended pregnancy and fuels the country’s alarmingly high rate of maternal mortality and illness.
About 6,000 Cameroonian women die from pregnancy-related causes every year; nearly 30% of these women did not want to become pregnant in the first place. Many cases of maternal death and disability in Cameroon result from the unsafe abortions that many women resort to when faced with an unintended pregnancy. According to the study, roughly 40% of all pregnancies in the country are unintended, and 36% of these unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Because abortion is highly restricted, the vast majority of procedures are clandestine and carry a high risk of complications that endanger women’s health and lives.
The new analysis shows that if the need for modern contraceptives were fully met, the benefits would be substantial: There would be 373,000 fewer unintended pregnancies each year than currently occur, which would reduce the numbers of unplanned births, abortions and miscarriages by 75% each. Furthermore, the number of maternal deaths would decrease by more than 20%. Meeting just half of unmet need for modern contraceptives would also result in significant health benefits. There would be nearly 187,000 fewer unintended pregnancies, which would mean 95,000 fewer unplanned births, 65,000 fewer induced abortions and 600 fewer maternal deaths each year than occur now.
Investing in family planning services would also save money. For every additional dollar the health system spends on contraceptive services, $1.23 would be saved on maternal and newborn care. Meeting half of the need for modern contraceptives would result in net savings of US$2.7 million ($1.3 billion francs), while fulfilling all unmet need would generate US$5.4 million (2.7 billion francs) in net savings.
“Strengthening family planning services would greatly improve the physical and emotional well-being of women and their families,” said Professor Gervais Beninguisse, Director of Development at IFORD, in Yaoundé. “It would also save a considerable amount of money, which could be allocated to other critical areas, ultimately accelerating Cameroon’s ability to meet its development goals.”
The full report and a detailed appendix are available at www.guttmacher.org. The high rate of return on investments in contraceptive services documented in “Benefits of Meeting the Contraceptive Needs of Cameroonian Women” echoes findings from similar analyses conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and its partners in Uganda, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and the Philippines, and builds on a growing body of cost-benefit research conducted by the Institute.