A new analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, published today in both English and French, provides estimates for 2018 of the need for contraceptive services and maternal and newborn health care among women in the nine countries in Francophone West Africa that comprise the Ouagadougou Partnership. The analysis also gives estimates of critical gaps in existing services and the costs and benefits of fully meeting these needs. These data are intended to help inform the health care investments of the nine countries, as well as those of their financial partners. The data demonstrate that investing in contraceptive services and maternal and newborn health care together would have a greater impact in improving the health of women and their families than would investing in either set of services alone.

The Ouagadougou Partnership was formed in 2011 by the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo to address the need for modern contraception in those countries. The nine countries aim to increase the number of women electing to use modern contraceptives by 2.2 million between 2015 and 2020.

The Ouagadougou Partnership has made significant gains toward meeting its goal for 2020. Between 2015 and 2018, the number of women using modern contraceptive methods in these countries grew by 1.4 million, to a total of 5.8 million. Another 817,000 women must elect to take up modern methods to reach the target of 2.2 million additional users by 2020.

Reaching those additional 817,000 women is achievable. The authors found that providing coverage for all current modern contraceptive users and for the additional users would cost $58 million annually, or $.41 per capita per year.

According to the researchers, once the Ouagadougou Partnership meets that goal, there will still be at least eight million women in the nine countries who have an unmet need for modern contraception, meaning that they are sexually active and do not wish to have a child in the next two years but are not using a modern contraceptive method. Furthermore, in 2018, an estimated 27,600 women died from pregnancy-related complications and 165,000 babies died in the first month of life. With adequate maternal and newborn health care, many such deaths could be prevented.

The authors found that an investment of $16.94 per capita per year would help ensure that all unmet need for modern contraception is met, and that all women and newborns in these countries receive maternal and newborn care. Because the cost of preventing an unintended pregnancy through use of modern contraception is far lower than the cost of providing care for an unintended pregnancy, the cost of pregnancy-related care would drop by $1.28 for every additional dollar spent on contraceptive services.

This new evidence makes a compelling case for simultaneously investing in contraceptive services and maternal and newborn health care. Fully meeting these needs would enable more women and couples to decide whether and when to have children, have safe deliveries and keep their newborns healthy.