Low levels of contraceptive use in Uganda result in high levels of unintended pregnancy which, in turn, result in a broad range of negative consequences for women, their families and the national health care system. "Benefits of Meeting the Contraceptive Needs of Ugandan Women," a new report produced by the Guttmacher Institute and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), documents the considerable financial and health benefits that would accrue from investing in contraceptive services.
Seven in 10 Ugandan women who want to avoid a pregnancy either do not practice contraception or rely on ineffective traditional methods with high failure rates. Women who use no method at all account for 88% of the country's unintended pregnancies—more than one million each year—while women using modern contraceptives account for only 5%.
The new report estimates that meeting just half of Ugandan women's unmet need for modern contraceptives—that is, providing modern methods to just 50% of the women who wish to avoid a pregnancy but currently use no method or use an ineffective method—would yield dramatic health benefits. There would be 519,000 fewer unintended pregnancies each year (a 42% decline from current levels), which would lead to 152,000 fewer induced abortions (a 42% decline) and 1,600 fewer maternal deaths from unsafe abortions and various obstetric emergencies (a 21% drop).
Meeting 100% of Ugandan women's unmet need for modern contraceptives would have an even more dramatic impact: It would reduce unintended pregnancies, including induced abortions, by roughly 85% over current levels, and maternal deaths would drop by about 40% from current levels.
Fulfilling unmet need would also save money. Though increasing family planning services requires increased investment, it ultimately results in considerable cost savings. The report estimates that every dollar spent on contraceptive services saves more than three dollars that would be spent treating postabortion complications and providing maternal and newborn care related to unintended pregnancies. Fully meeting Ugandan women's need for modern contraceptives would result in annual net savings of US$112 million (more than 194 billion Ugandan shillings).
"Investing in contraceptive services saves lives and money," said Michael Vlassoff of the Guttmacher Institute, lead author of the report. "The short-term costs and benefits alone are dramatic. In the longer term it could result in improved family health, reduced poverty and a greater ability to meet development goals. It is clear this is one of the most practical investments the Ugandan government could make."
"Enabling women to have the number of children they want and to time and space their births is essential to Uganda's development," added Frederick Mugisha of EPRC, a coauthor. "Reducing Uganda's high levels of unintended pregnancy and the subsequent negative consequences would greatly contribute to improving the health and wealth of the nation."
The high rate of return on investments in contraceptive services documented in "Benefits of Meeting the Contraceptive Needs of Ugandan Women" echoes findings from a similar analysis conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and partners in the Philippines and builds on a growing body of cost-benefit research conducted by the Institute.