More Women in Africa Are Using Long-Acting Contraception, Changing Lives

On a busy day at the Kwapong Health Centre in rural Ghana, Beatrice Nyamekye put contraceptive implants into the arms of a half-dozen women, and gave eight or nine more a three-month hormonal injection to prevent pregnancy. A few sought condoms or birth control pills, but most wanted something longer lasting.

“They like the implants and injections best of all,” said Ms. Nyamekye, a community health nurse. “It frees them from worry, and it is private. They don’t have to even discuss it with a husband or a partner.”

The bustle at the Kwapong clinic is echoed all over Ghana, and across much of sub-Saharan Africa, where women have the world’s lowest rate of access to contraception: Just 26 percent of women of reproductive age in the region are using a modern contraceptive method — something other than the rhythm or withdrawal methods — according to the United Nations Population Fund, known as UNFPA, which works on reproductive and maternal health.

But that is changing as more women have been able to get methods that give them a fast, affordable and discreet boost of reproductive autonomy. Over the past decade, the number of women in the region using modern contraception has nearly doubled to 66 million.

“We’ve made progress, and it’s growing: You’re going to see huge numbers of women gaining access in the near future,” said Esi Asare Prah, who manages advocacy for the Ghana office of MSI, a reproductive health nonprofit.



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