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According to the World Population 2017 report released this week by the United Nations Population Fund, there is an unmet demand for family planning in developing countries that is greatest among women in the poorest 20 percent of households.
The report that focuses reproductive health and rights in the age of inequality states that income gaps widened in 34 countries between 2008 to 2014, while 68 countries had larger gender gaps in 2016 than they did the year before.
According to Richard Kollodge, the editor of the report, there are different ways of looking at inequality gaps. “We note big gaps between urban and rural, and between those with a lot of education and those with very little education. Those are the main ways we look at inequality. But there are other dimensions for rural, urban, and less educated that factor into the report,” he stated.
Findings of the report challenge that idea inequality is purely a manifestation of economics. Growing disparities within countries can have devastating health and societal consequences for women, who, globally, still earn 77 percent of what men bring in. These differences are most pronounced when women’s lives are analyzed by their financial, education, and geographic demographics.
In a majority of countries, contraceptive prevalence is lower among women who are poorer, live in rural areas, or are less educated than their richer, urban, and more highly educated counterparts. There are some exceptions to this. In Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, and Thailand, for example, where family planning is more equitable, contraceptive prevalence rates are higher among the poorest 20 percent of the population than among the richest 20 percent.
“The poorest women have the least power to decide whether, when, and how often to become pregnant. The poorest women also have the least access to quality care during pregnancy and childbirth. This inequity has lasting repercussions for women’s health, for their work life, for their earnings potential, and for their contribution to their nations’ development and elimination of poverty. Countries seeking to tackle economic inequality should start by addressing related and underlying inequalities, such as in reproductive health,” stated UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem.
Other findings show that while the rate of maternal deaths nearly halved from 2000 to 2015, the mortality ratio in least developed countries still rests at 436 deaths per 100,000 birth; much higher than the 12 deaths per 100,000 birth in developed countries.
UNFPA currently faces a funding gap of USD 700 million on what it requires through 2020. The U.S which was one of UNFPA’s largest donors cut it supports to the agency this year.
“We have to explain ourselves better, and we have to be more vocal and more visible and more willing to go for it, even to those who disagree, so that we have the opportunity for dialogue and to discuss how this is really life-changing,” The Executive Director said.