The neglected crisis of unwanted pregnancies has a lifelong impact and costs healthcare systems billions


DURBAN, South Africa– Nearly half of all pregnancies, totaling 121 million worldwide each year, are unintended, says the State of World Population 2022 report, released at a high-level event to discuss pregnancies unwanted as a neglected crisis, in Durban, South Africa, on June 23.

Titled Seeing the Unseen: The Case for Action in the Neglected Crisis of Unwanted Pregnancy, the State of World Population 2022 Report highlights unintended pregnancy as a global failure of basic human rights. It reveals the scope and impact of unplanned pregnancies on women, girls, households, societies, countries and global development.

The South African Government’s Department of Social Development, in partnership with UNFPA for Eastern and Southern Africa, launched the report on Thursday 23 June at the Zimbali Resort Capital Hotel.

“In South Africa, we are talking about children who are not even teenagers getting pregnant. Young girls need to know about contraceptives, so they can decide whether to use them,” said South African Minister for Social Development Lindiwe Zulu. “Let us strive to be solution-oriented in our efforts to deal with unintended pregnancies and the challenges associated with them. We need to be more vigilant in our efforts to reduce gender inequalities by empowering women and girls, and the importance of men and young men in this discussion is very important.

In Southern Africa, 65% of pregnancies between 2015 and 2019 were unintended and 36% ended in abortion. The predominant cause of unwanted pregnancies is sexual activity without the use of effective contraception, either by choice or by coercion. In many cases, unwanted pregnancy is linked to gender-based violence, including non-consensual first sex and child marriage.

“Across the region, a neglected crisis is silently raging. Unwanted pregnancies drive millions of women and girls out of school and the labor market, with a lifelong impact on their income, health and well-being. Unintended pregnancies cost the health system billions of dollars,” said Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

“To achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, we must end unmet need for contraception, achieve gender equality and advance bodily autonomy. Because unwanted pregnancies prevent women and girls from realizing their potential and enjoying and exercising their rights,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala noted that “the report confirms the development case for investing in reproductive rights to reduce unwanted pregnancies. It points out that unwanted pregnancies are a reflection of overall social development and that higher levels of choice in reproductive decision-making are part of a positive cycle fueling other development gains.

Gender inequality and stalled development lead to high rates of unintended pregnancies

Globally, an estimated 257 million women who wish to avoid pregnancy are not using modern, safe methods of contraception, and where data is available, almost a quarter of all women are not in able to say no to sex. A range of other key factors also contribute to unintended pregnancies, including lack of sexual and reproductive health care and information, contraceptive options that are not suitable for a woman’s body or situation, and gender norms. harmful effects and stigma surrounding women who control their own fertility and their bodies. Sexual violence and reproductive coercion, judgmental attitudes or shame in health services, poverty and stalled economic development, and gender inequality also contribute.

All of these factors reflect the pressure societies place on women and girls to become mothers. An unwanted pregnancy is not necessarily a personal failure and may be due to the lack of autonomy that society allows or the value placed on women’s lives.

The high-level hybrid event brought together the Prime Minister of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr. Sihle Zikalala; the Minister of Social Development, Ms. Lindiwe Zulu; ministers from the Eastern and Southern Africa region; Member of the Social Development Executive Council, Ms. Nonhlanhla Khoza; and the Speaker of the KZN Provincial Legislative Assembly, Ms. Nontembeko Boyce.

Access UNFPA State of the world population report, Seeing the Invisible: The Case for Action in the Neglected Crisis of Unintended Pregnancy

For interviews or more information, please contact:

Ms. Lumka Oliphant (DSD) at 083 484-8067 / [email protected]
Ms. Ziyanda Ngoma (UNFPA) at 0722990868 / [email protected]



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