Diene Keita: “Unwanted pregnancies are a brake on development”

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“The Forgotten Crisis of Unwanted Pregnancy” – i.e. unplanned pregnancies – is the subject of the annual report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Deputy General Manager, Diene Keita, is a guest of Claire Fages.

RFI : More than half of the pregnancies worldwide are “unwanted”, i.e. unplanned. It’s a much bigger phenomenon than teenage pregnancy or unwanted pregnancies…

Serve Kaita : Absolutely. This report highlights a crisis that is extremely important as unwanted pregnancies are actually 400,000 pregnancies a day. There are a number of women who want to avoid pregnancy and do not use modern and safe contraceptive methods. There’s also nearly a quarter of women who can’t turn down sex, especially when married. This is of course due to the cultural conditions of the respective region, which of course has enormous effects. So at the United Nations Population Fund, we work a lot with traditional leaders and religious leaders to make sure we raise awareness. Violence is a large part of the causes of unwanted pregnancies, but unfortunately not only in conflict zones, but domestic violence, violence in very urban areas, which is more common than it should be.

There are strong disparities between regions of the world and Africa is very concerned about this issue…

Absolutely. Sub-Saharan Africa has three times more unwanted pregnancies than Europe or North America. It’s very clear. In 2015-2019, there were approximately 35 unintended pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49 in Europe and North America, 64 per 1,000 in Central and South Asia, and 91 per 1,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa. You see the difference it makes. Uganda has the highest estimated incidence of unwanted pregnancies in Africa.

The consequences of these unwanted pregnancies are serious and primarily affect health…

Absolutely. First of all, it is a health problem. More than 60% of unwanted pregnancies end with an often unsafe abortion. However, these abortions, performed under poor conditions, are really one of the main causes of maternal deaths. The cost to health care systems is $2.8 billion each year for abortion services and aftercare. And that cost could be halved if the need for contraceptives were truly fully met. This can also lead to high-risk pregnancies that need to be managed by healthcare systems. And what isn’t said are the mental health implications. And there is no cost to assessing that because it is destroying lives, it will have enormous repercussions that we cannot calculate and that will inevitably affect society and development in these areas in general.

The report points out that the impact of unwanted pregnancies on the development…

I agree. With this report, we invite countries to consider in their development programs these unwanted pregnancies, which cost society dearly and cost countries’ development budgets dearly if left unaddressed, as these wasted resources contribute to more can education and more social services and protection of the family, mother and child.

What measures should be taken to reduce unwanted pregnancies? ?

First, strengthen the health system. Second, strengthening the system of providing contraceptives at all levels, as well as family, school and social education through civic education on sexual and family issues. It is really important. Does the woman know what pregnancy is? Does she know what the consequences are? This is the first part. Then there is something that is sorely lacking today, and that is comprehensive sex education, which must be formal or informal, which must be everywhere. And finally, the dialogue and conversation between partners in a couple, since many unwanted pregnancies occur within couples where information is not shared between partners. Which raises such a relevant question: are men told about the prognosis of an unwanted pregnancy too? This comprehensive sex education should therefore be something for everyone.

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