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The unmet need for family planning

Bangladesh - 24% of women do not want pregnancy but are not using contraception.

About a quarter of all women want to stop having children or to postpone the next pregnancy for at least two years, but are not using contraceptives.

Such women are defined by DHS surveys as having an `unmet need' for family planning.

Unmet need does not necessarily mean that family planning services are not available. It may also mean that women lack information, or that the quality of the services on offer does not inspire the necessary confidence, or that women themselves have little say in the matter.

Nonetheless, where family planning services are considered to be strong - as in Brazil, Sri Lanka, Thailand, or Viet Nam - unmet demand is less than 15%. In eight of the sub-Saharan African countries surveyed, unmet need rises to between 30% and 42%.

The level of unmet demand says little about either overall demand or the level of contraceptive use. In both Botswana and Uganda, for example, unmet demand is estimated at 27%: but in Botswana the overall demand is 60% of which 33% is met, whereas in Uganda the overall demand is 32% of which only 5% is being met.

The measure of need
Percentage of currently married women aged 15-49 who want to stop having children or to postpone the next pregnancy for at least two years, but who are not using contraception

Sub-Saharan Africa
Niger      18      Zambia        27
Nigeria    20      Burkina Faso  29
Cameroon   21      Mali          30
Namibia    21      Madagascar    31
Zimbabwe   23      Kenya         32
Guinea     25      Malawi        34
Burundi    26      Liberia       35
Botswana   27      Rwanda        36
Senegal    27      Ghana         37
Tanzania   27      Togo          42
Uganda     27

Asia, the Middle East and North Africa
Viet Nam   11      Tunisia       20
Thailand   12      Jordan        23
Turkey     12      Bangladesh    24
Sri Lanka  13      Philippines   26
Indonesia  14      Pakistan      27
Egypt      20      Sudan         27
Morocco    20      Nepal         28

Latin America and the Caribbean
Brazil         14  Bolivia         24
Colombia       16  Ecuador         25
Peru           16  Mexico          27
Dominican Rep. 17  Trinidad/Tobago 27
Paraguay       20  Guatemala       30
El Salvador    22
Source: Updated from DHS Program, Women's lives and experiences, : a decade of research findings from the Demographic and Health Surveys Program, 1994.

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