Ethiopian couple standing with their two children

6 facts about family planning in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has one of the highest fertility rates in Africa. Today, every woman on average has four children. Only twenty years ago, women had 6.5 children and in the 80s it was 7.4 children.

Worldwide about 800 women die because of pregnancy and childbirth complications, which are the leading causes of death among 15- to 19-year-old girls globally. Ethiopia is ranked among the countries with the highest rates of mothers dying because of pregnancy and childbirth complications worldwide.

I was around 15 when my first daughter was born. I was in labor longer than 24 hours and I had a lot of pain. Since the birth, I have health problems and still did not recover fully from the pain,
describes Astella, 34. She got married when she was 12.

Having too many children places children's health at risk. If women would space the birth of their children with more than two years between pregnancies it could reduce child death by up to 50%. “After joining the Social Analysis and Action group and after discussions about family planning, I understand how important it is for my health and the health of my children. Now we space our children between each other more,” says Tehune, 28, mother of two children aged six and three. She is a member of a Social Analysis and Action group in her community. 

In the last twenty years access to and usage of contraceptives for women aged 15-49 has increased. In 2000 only one in ten women used contraceptives. Today it is four in ten.

I am very happy to be able to express my feelings about wanting to use contraceptives to my husband and that he understands,
reflects Tehune.

For every dollar invested in reproductive health services, up to $2.20 can be saved in pregnancy-related healthcare costs. “We didn’t have an understanding about how the number of children we have influences our livelihood,” reflects Terfa, 50, father of five and a member of a SAA group.

Talking about family planning is considered taboo in Ethiopia and usually is a hidden practice. Change can only come from within the community through leading actions to challenge and change social norms. 

“Before we came together, we never talked about family planning. Now husband and wife have an open discussion about it. Now it is us husbands that remind our wives that it is time to get the contraceptive injection again”, says Terfa.