On July 11, World Population Day, while global health leaders meet in London to discuss giving greater priority to family planning, World Bank health staff in South Asia will be thinking about how to more effectively support women and families in this region to space births and avoid unwanted pregnancies.
While the countries of South Asia have made progress in increasing access to modern family planning, and reducing total fertility rates, the region still accounts for the second highest burden of maternal deaths. Poor, marginalized and uneducated households do not have access to the reproductive health services they need, including family planning.
In India, Nepal and Pakistan in particular, the differences in fertility and use of contraception across socioeconomic groups are striking: In India, the fertility rate among the wealthiest part of the population is only 1.8, while it remains 3.9 among the poorest. In Nepal, educated women have on average 1.9 children while the least educated have an average of 3.7.In Pakistan, contraceptive prevalence is 32% among wealthier couples and yet only 12% among poor couples. In the Indian state of Meghalaya, 36% of couples who want to practice family planning lack access to effective contraception.