NEW YORK, Nov 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A record 290.6 million women and girls in the world's poorest nations are using modern methods of contraception, averting millions of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, a global family planning rights group said on Thursday.
The biggest jumps in contraceptive usage since 2012 showed up in South Asia, up 47 percent, and eastern and southern Africa, up 22 percent, 2012, the global partnership FP2020 said in a report.
However, while the overall number of contraceptive users has risen 24.4 million since FP2020 launched its effort three years ago, the rate of increase is falling short of its goal of adding 120 million users by 2020, the group said.
The present number of users is 10 million fewer than it had hoped for by now, the Washington, D.C.-based group said.
"Family planning saves lives and unlocks the potential of women, their families and communities. But while we have made progress, the latest data show that we're not yet meeting our goals," the report said. "With five years to go, we have a window of opportunity to get back on track."
The effort was launched in 2012 in 69 focus countries.
Looking at the countries' typical rates of unintended pregnancies, the use of modern contraception by 290.6 million women and girls averted an estimated 80 million pregnancies, 28.6 million unsafe abortions and 111,000 maternal deaths this year, it said.
Among nations showing progress was Kenya, where contraceptive use rose to 58 percent of married women in 2014 from 46 percent in 2009.
Much of the improvement can be traced to Kenya's community-based distribution of injectable contraceptives, it said.
Zambia's contraceptive prevalence also improved, rising to 45 percent from 33 percent in 2012, partly because the nation doubled its budget for family planning, the report said.
Ten nations that are home to half the women of reproductive age in the 69 focus countries are not showing marked advances, among them India, Pakistan and the Philippines, it said.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)