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Reproductive Health and the World Bank: The Facts

1. Access to quality reproductive health and family planning services saves lives and empowers women.
2. The World Bank’s support for reproductive health and family planning is increasing.
3. Our support has improved the lives of poor girls and women around the globe.

1. Access to quality reproductive health and family planning services is a health and development priority for the World Bank.

  • Globally 287,000 women die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth each year – one of the leading causes of death and disability among women of reproductive age in low-income countries – and the vast majority of these deaths (56%) are in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 45 low-income countries remain burdened by high rates of maternal mortality and high fertility, which are closely linked to high infant mortality and gender inequality.
  • More than 1/4 of girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa cannot access family planning services, fueling unplanned pregnancies and spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

2. The World Bank’s support for reproductive health and family planning is strong and growing.

  • World Bank commitments for reproductive health during Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 totaled US$1.3 billion, helping increase the number of poor women with access to lifesaving antenatal and postnatal care, safe births, and family planning services.
  • As of June 2012, the World Bank also has committed US$355 million (US$182.3 million committed and US$172.5 million in the pipeline) out of the US$600 million in results-based financing for health pledged at the 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit to accelerate progress toward MDGs 4 and 5 for maternal and child health.
  • As a result of the World Bank’s five-year Reproductive Health Action Plan, the number of World Bank country strategies and projects that address reproductive health is increasing; 70% of all ongoing World Bank health projects in countries with high maternal mortality and/or high fertility include reproductive health components or indicators. For example:
    • In Bangladesh, the Health Sector Development Project is strengthening delivery of reproductive, maternal, and child health services, including providing more skilled-birth attendants and improving the nutrition of pregnant women and children;
    • In Mozambique, the World Bank is expanding the availability of essential drugs and medical supplies, including contraceptives;
    • In Swaziland, the World Bank is training doctors and midwives in antenatal, emergency obstetrics , and neonatal and post-natal care, and is improving access to specialized facilities;
    • In Yemen, the Health and Population Project is increasing poor women’s access to and use of maternal and child health services, especially in remote and rural areas.
    • In Pakistan, the Revitalizing Health Services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa supports the contracting of the delivery of essential package of health services, including maternal and child health services, in the region.
    • In Lao PDR the Health Services Improvement Project is helping to increase utilization and quality of health services for poor women and children in eight rural provinces.

3. Support from IDA, the World Bank’s Fund for the Poorest, has improved the lives of poor women and children around the globe. Some results:

  • Afghanistan: Facilities with skilled female health workers increased from 25% to 83%, with a 4-fold increase in outpatient visits from 2002-2007.
  • Benin: 2 million medicated bed nets have benefited pregnant women and children under age five since March 2007.
  • Burundi: 27% increase in family planning services obtained through health facilities; 35% increase in consultations for pregnant women; and a 25% increase in attended births in health facilities in 1 year.
  • Djibouti: over 50% decrease in HIV/AIDS prevalence among young pregnant women from 2.9% in 2002 to 1.4% in 2010; 31% increase in births with skilled attendants; and a decline in child mortality from 103 to 67 deaths /1000 live births from 2002-2006.
  • Georgia: 29% and 59% increases in health insurance coverage for poor women of reproductive age and children under age five.
  • Ghana: Improved maternal and child health care reduced mortality rates for children under five to 80 per 1,000 live births in 2008, from 111 in 2003.
  • Lesotho: Prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission rose from 5% in 2005 to 31% in 2009; 10% increase in contraceptive prevalence rate from 2004-2009.
  • Nepal: 43% increase in use of contraceptives; 85% increase in pregnant women attending at least one antenatal consultation; and a 36% increase in skilled attendance at birth.

For more: Reproductive Health Action Plan Progress Update: July 2012 (ppt 2.41MB) 


Last updated: 2012-07-09




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