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Poor reproductive health

It is estimated that 215 million women world-wide still lack access to modern contraception. Even where it is formally available, take-up and use are often limited by the degree of cultural acceptance, the level of female empowerment, affordability and problems with distribution. This means many people have much larger families than the global average, with some countries averaging five or six per woman. In some places, high infant mortality rates can contribute to higher birth rates because women have more pregnancies to compensate.

Contraception is only one element of a general lack of reproductive health services which mean that half a million women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, equivalent to four full jumbo jets crashing every day.

After a number of years of reduced international support, US funding of reproductive health programmes in developing countries has resumed. However, funding overall remains below the required level. One reason is that the necessary response to the AIDS crisis has resulted in the diversion of funds previously used for family planning and maternal health programmes.

In the developed world, while most couples have one, two or three children, unintended pregnancy still remains an issue, particularly in the US and UK. Government programmes have been instigated, such as promoting more reliable long-acting reversible contraceptives, but, as yet, results have been limited.

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