Governments have been urged to commit and invest in creating an enabling environment for adolescents and youth to demand, access and use a full range of contraceptive methods in their countries.
Speaking yesterday during the launch of the Global Consensus statement for Expanding Contraceptive Choice for Adolescents and Youth at the on-going International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), executive director of Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) Beth Schlachter said increasing access to contraceptives for youths—including long-acting reversible methods—would keep girls in school, improve economic activities and contribute toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The largest generation of young people the world has ever seen is entering reproductive age, and yet these young people too often face enormous barriers in accessing a full range of contraceptives, including long-acting reversible methods,” she said.
Malawi has a very youthful population, with two-thirds of the population being under age 25. The 2014 Malawi Youth Data Sheet developed by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) attributes this to the country’s sustained high fertility in the last 20 years.
“This places a significant burden on the working-age population to provide the basic health and education needs required by children and youth. Proper investments in the well-being of children and adolescents will help ensure that current and future generations grow and develop into their full potential,” reads the data sheet.
Currently, the country’s total fertility rate—the number of children a woman is likely to have in her child-bearing years—is 5.6. On the other hand, about 26 percent of women in Malawi have an unmet need for contraception, leading to unplanned pregnancies.
Furthermore, over one in five adolescent girls would have begun bearing children by age 17, according to the 2014 Malawi Youth Data Sheet.
The consensus statement says barriers to adolescents and youth’s contraceptive use include limited knowledge of their contraceptive options, myths and misconceptions, provider bias, lack of family and community support, negative social norms and poor access.
“Global efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and improve pregnancy spacing among adolescents and youth will reduce HIV/STI incidence, keep girls in school, improve economic opportunities and contribute toward reaching the Sustainable Development Goals,” reads the statement in part.
Developed by Pathfinder International, FHI360, Marie Stopes International and Population Services International (PSI), the statement “is intended to generate awareness about the right of all sexually active youth to have access to the widest available contraceptive options, regardless of marital status and parity.”