'Family planning frontiers will be in Africa'

Posted: 24 May 2002

By the middle of the twenty-first century, many of the most success-ful national family planning programmes will almost certainly have disappeared, rendered obsolete by their very success, say the editors of a special edition of Studies in Family Planning, published by the Population Council.

National family planning programmes, which have been instrumental in accelerating global fertility decline, will probably go out of existence in most of the world's regions by 2050, say the editors, adding that "the future family planning frontier will be sub-Saharan Africa." The success of future programmes in Africa will depend largely upon stronger political leadership, donor-country assistance, and the development of programmes that meet the needs of all segments of society, not only currently married women.

The first birth control clinics opened in the United States and Britain in 1916 and 1921, respectively, and the first government family planning programmes were implemented in the 1950s in India and Pakistan. By the 1980s, dozens of national family planning programmes had been established throughout the world. Where they have been most successful, in places like Singapore and South Korea, they are already being phased out as fertility levels decline to replacement level. In such countries the demographic focus is increasingly on the aging of their populations.

"Although family planning programmes will tend to disappear, contraception will not," the authors conclude, noting that with a future global population of perhaps ten billion, around 80 per cent of those in a potentially reproductive sexual union will be practicing contraception, more than double the present absolute number. "An open-ended demand will be expressed for better contraceptive methods and, mostly from the private sector, for the best practice in reproductive health care," they say.

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