Hospital in a tent

Youth Family Planning Policy Scorecard: Measuring Commitment to Effective Policy and Program Interventions

The Youth Family Planning Policy Scorecard evaluates the favorability of 28 current national policy and program environments for youth access to sexual and reproductive health services.

The March 2022 edition of PRB’s Youth Family Planning Policy Scorecard evaluates the favorability of 28 current national policy and program environments for youth access to sexual and reproductive health services. The Scorecard allows users to quickly assess the extent to which a country’s policy environment enables and supports youth access to and use of family planning through the promotion of evidence-based practices. Users can explore the digital interface and self-select countries to compile their own Scorecard!


Governments around the world are increasingly creating policies to formalize the rights of adolescents and young people to access sexual and reproductive health services. Despite growing commitment from decisionmakers, many barriers remain for young people who want to use contraception. A limited evidence base has hampered systematic assessment and mapping of the key policies and programs that govern young people’s ability to access family planning information, services, and commodities. Governments and their partners lack clear guidance on which interventions will ensure that their commitments to expanding family planning use among young people are realized. Similarly, efforts by civil society to monitor the state of policy environments for youth family planning are needed to understand how countries are addressing these needs and identify areas for improvement.

To address this evidence gap, PRB conducted research and analysis to identify the most effective policies and program interventions to promote uptake of contraception among youth, defined as people between ages 15 and 24. This research has been compiled into the Youth Family Planning Policy Scorecard to evaluate and compare the favorability of current national policy and program environments.

Based on a review of existing evidence and expert consultations, the following indicators were selected as evidence-based interventions for inclusion in the Scorecard:

  • Policy barriers related to consent (parental, spousal, or service provider); age; and marital status.
  • Policies supporting access to a full range of family planning methods.
  • Policies related to comprehensive sexuality education.
  • Policies supporting/inhibiting youth-friendly family planning service provision.
  • Policies related to an enabling social environment for youth family planning services.

The Scorecard can be used by governments, donors, and advocates to evaluate a country’s youth family planning policy environment, set policy priorities, guide future commitments, and compare policy environments across countries.

The March 2022 edition of the Scorecard includes data for 28 countries: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, the Philippines, Senegal, Sindh (Pakistan), Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia.


PRB launched the March 2022 Edition of the Youth Family Planning Policy Scorecard on March 9 and March 10 through a webinar delivered in French and English. The webinar shares new country policy analyses and digital platform features. It also features guest speakers who share their experiences using the Scorecard to advance policy change.


Webinar: Using the Youth Family Planning Policy Scorecard to Advance Policy Change

The Youth Family Planning Policy Scorecard allows for a quick assessment of the extent to which a country’s policy environment enables and supports youth access to and use of FP, can be used by governments, donors, and advocates to evaluate the inclusion of evidence-based interventions and policy language and set policy priorities and guide future commitments.

This webinar shares new updates and functions from the March 2022 edition of the Scorecard, and features guest speakers from Bridge Connect Initiative Africa and SERAC-Bangladesh sharing their experiences using the Scorecard to advance policy change.

Webinaire: Tableau de bord des politiques de planification familiale pour les jeunes

Le Tableau de bord de la politique de planification familiale pour les jeunes est conçu pour permettre une appréciation rapide de la mesure dans laquelle l’environnement politique d’un pays permet et soutient l’accès des jeunes à la PF et son utilisation, en encourageant des pratiques fondées sur des données probantes. Le Tableau de bord peut être utilisé pour évaluer l’inclusion des interventions fondées sur des données probantes et les politiques avérées efficaces pour réduire les obstacles et/ou améliorer l’accès des jeunes à la contraception dans les pays. Au cours du webinaire, nous partagerons les nouvelles analyses et fonctionnalités du Tableau de bord et comment il a été utilisé pour motiver des changements de politiques.


How Family Planning Could Help Slow Climate Change

This article was originally posted on the Ms. Magazine blog.

In the mid-1990s, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a village in Niger, a West African country consistently ranked as one of the poorest in the world. I lived in a mud hut, learned a local language, made lasting friendships and did interesting work. Nearly 20 years later, two memories stand out from those years: It was incessantly hot, and I went to a lot of baptisms.

Things haven’t changed much in Niger since then, except that women are having even more children and it’s getting even hotter and drier. Niger’s fertility rate, historically very high, is now the world’s highest at an average of 7.6 children per woman (compared to 1.9 in the United States). Niger had about 9 million people in 1996 and now there are almost 19 million.

By 2050, Niger’s population is projected to more than triple to 68 million unless the birth rate slows substantially. But currently only 12 percent of married women in Niger use a modern form of contraception, compared to an average of 29 percent across Africa and 56 percent globally. There is an urgent need to make voluntary contraception available so that women and their families are able to live healthy, productive lives.

Early marriages also play a key role in birth rates by extending the length of childbearing years, and they pose high health risks for women. In Niger, half of girls are married before their 16th birthday. I saw this up close when I lived there. Salama, a young bride who was pregnant for the first time, lived on the edge of the village in an impeccably clean house. I used to go and talk with her when I needed a quiet escape from the bustle of village life. Like many Nigerien women wed too young, she died during childbirth from laboring too long to deliver a baby too large for her still developing adolescent body. In fact, Save the Children rated Niger the worst place in the world to be a mother.

Meanwhile, Niger is acutely vulnerable to climate change. It’s a large country, about twice the size of Texas, but only about 13 percent of the country is suitable for agriculture, and even that land is dry for much of the year. Much of the country is part of the Sahara Desert. Families are having a harder time each year eking out enough food from this parched land, and it’s difficult to provide enough pasture and water for their livestock, too.

These twin challenges for Niger (and many other nations) will come into focus later this month when countries from around the world gather in Paris for a major conference on climate change. It’s an occasion for the world’s leaders to commit to real action to slow global carbon emissions that heat the planet and exacerbate the kinds of challenges Nigeriens face.

How does family planning fit into the climate change picture? Research supports the linkage by showing that fewer people in the world could lead to substantial long-term climate-related benefits by lowering carbon emissions. Approximately 222 million women in the world would like to plan the number and spacing of their children, but currently are not able to because they don’t have access to modern contraception. Meeting their needs through providing voluntary, rights-based family planning could be a global hat trick–for women, their children and the climate. And for women and their households, the additional health, education and economic benefits that accompany family planning would reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and build their resilience.

Recently, more scientists and governments have made the connection between population growth and global carbon emissions and have recognized the multiple benefits that family planning provides. Some environmentalists believe there is a strong chance for real progress at the Paris climate talks. My hope is that additional headway will be realized through climate negotiations that acknowledge the compound benefits of rights-based voluntary family planning for women and children at the individual level and for the planet. And in the end, people in Niger and elsewhere will benefit.


Défis démographiques du Sahel

(Février 2015) Cet essai est un court résumé d’un article écrit par John F. May et Jean-Pierre Guengant, « Les défis démographiques des pays sahéliens, » ÉTVDES 4206 (2014) : 19-30, qui a été utilisé ici avec l’aimable permission de la revue mensuelle française ÉTVDES.

La plupart des régions du monde connaissent une baisse graduelle de leurs taux d’accroissement démographique. Cependant, la population de l’Afrique sub-saharienne continue d’augmenter rapidement parce que la région n’a pas encore commencé véritablement sa «transition démographique », caractérisée par le passage de taux élevés de natalité et de mortalité à des taux plus faibles.

La population de l’Afrique sub-saharienne, estimée à 920 millions au milieu de 2014, va plus que doubler dans les 36 prochaines années. Ces changements démographiques tels qu’ils sont prévus vont avoir des conséquences énormes dans beaucoup de pays et ce, dans de nombreux domaines allant de la production agricole jusqu’aux perspectives de développement socioéconomique en passant par la stabilité politique. Le Sahel, en particulier, devra faire face aux défis les plus extrêmes, aggravés par la menace d’Al-Qaeda au Maghreb islamique.

Le mot arabe sahel (« bordure ») désigne la zone de transition entre le désert du Sahara au Nord et les plaines de savanes au Sud.  C’est une région semi-aride avec une moyenne de précipitations pluviales comprises entre 300 et 500 mm par an. Comme la définition du Sahel est fondée sur le climat, elle ne coïncide pas avec des frontières internationales précises. Pourtant les données démographiques et les projections de la population future existent seulement au niveau de chaque pays. Cet article se concentre donc sur les 10 pays qui composent la région du Sahel—le Burkina Faso, le Tchad, l’Érythrée, la Gambie, la Guinée-Bissau, le Mali, la Mauritanie, le Niger, le Sénégal et le Soudan (voir la carte).


Ces 10 pays s’étendent sur plus de 7 millions de kilomètres carrés et abritent près de 135 millions d’habitants.1 Certains des plus grands pays comprenant une part importante de désert (le Mali et le Niger) ont de faibles densités de population, de moins de 20 personnes par kilomètre carré. D’autres pays plus petits, qui ont accès à la mer (comme le Sénégal), ont des densités de population de 50 personnes ou plus par kilomètre carré. Le Burkina Faso, qui est enclavé, a une densité de 65 personnes par kilomètre carré. Seule la Gambie a plus de 150 personnes par kilomètre carré (voir le tableau).

Les indicateurs démographiques-clés des 10 pays du Sahel, 2014

Pays Populations (en millions) Taux annuel d’accroissement (%) Densité de population (personnes par km2) Indice synthétique de fécondité (nombre moyen d’enfants par femme)
Burkina Faso 17,9 3,1 65 5,9
Tchad 13,3 3,3 10 6,6
Érythrée 6,5 2,6 56 4,7
Gambie 1,9 3,1 169 5,6
Guinée Bissau 1,7 2,5 48 5,0
Mali 15,9 2,9 13 6,1
Mauritanie 4,0 2,6 4 4,1
Niger 18,2 3,9 14 7,6
Sénégal 13,9 3,2 71 5,3
Soudan 38,8 2,5 21 5,2

Note : Le Soudan ne comprend pas le Sud Soudan.
Source: Carl Haub et Toshiko Kaneda, 2014 World Population Data Sheet (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2014).

Le produit intérieur brut (PIB) de la région, en parité de pouvoir d’achat, est relativement faible, allant d’approximativement USD 900 à moins de USD 3 000 par tête, les seuls revenus sérieux provenant de ressources naturelles comme le pétrole et les minerais.2  Le rapport 2015 « Doing Business » de la Banque mondiale classe ces pays parmi les moins attrayants pour les affaires, ceci étant dû en grande partie à leur histoire d’instabilité politique.3 En plus, la Banque mondiale répertorie la moitié des pays du Sahel comme « États fragiles » (pays à bas revenu et à faible capacité étatique).4

Un accroissement significatif de la population semble être l’élément-clé de l’avenir potentiellement turbulent de la région. Avec des taux annuels d’accroissement démographique allant de 2,5 pourcent à presque 4 pourcent, la population va continuer à croître au-delà de la capacité d’accueil de la région. Cet accroissement est dû à des diminutions rapides, et louables, de la mortalité infantile et juvénile, mais qui n’ont été suivies qu’avec retard par des déclins de la fécondité. Avec des indices synthétiques de fécondité compris entre 4,1 et 7,6 enfants par femme en moyenne, la population de la région pourrait passer de presque 135 millions de personnes aujourd’hui à 330 millions en 2050 et atteindre près de 670 millions en 2100. Ces estimations suivent l’hypothèse moyenne de diminution de la fécondité des Nations unies, utilisant des niveaux de fécondité dont aucun signe ne montre que ces pays soient réellement capables de les atteindre.

La structure par âge des 10 pays du Sahel va rester essentiellement jeune. Le nombre de jeunes—ceux en-dessous de 20 ans—doublera d’ici 2050. Durant les 36 prochaines années, le Niger aura le taux de dépendance des jeunes le plus élevé (il s’agit du taux des moins de 20 ans, ou dépendants, par rapport à ceux âgés de 20 à 64 ans qui constituent la force de travail). Et même en 2050, le Niger aura 132 personnes de moins de 20 ans pour 100 personnes âgées de 20 à 64 ans. Le dividende démographique qui pourrait être obtenu au moyen d’une force de travail plus importante (quand des adultes relativement plus nombreux soutiennent relativement moins de dépendants) semble n’être atteignable que dans plusieurs décennies pour la majorité des pays du Sahel.

Le réchauffement climatique sera aussi un facteur important. Les climatologues prévoient que la température du Sahel va augmenter de 3 à 5 degrés Celsius d’ici 2050 et peut-être même de 8 degrés Celsius en 2100.5 Les pluies vont diminuer et devenir plus imprévisibles. La production agricole va décliner dans une fourchette allant de 13 pourcent au Burkina Faso à presque 50 pourcent au Soudan. D’autres secteurs devront aussi faire face à des défis dans les prochaines décennies : il est peu probable que l’infrastructure de base en éducation et en soins de santé sera en mesure de satisfaire les besoins d’un nombre de jeunes en augmentation rapide, et que le secteur formel de l’économie sera capable de créer assez d’emplois pour les générations à venir.

Les défis de la région ne sont ni simples ni à dimension unique. La question fondamentale est de savoir ce qui peut être fait. Des progrès au Sahel peuvent être réalisés au travers de cinq initiatives principales :

  • Accélérer la transition démographique.
  • Renforcer l’infrastructure existante.
  • Construire le capital humain (éducation et santé).
  • Améliorer la gouvernance.
  • Créer des emplois.

En premier lieu, il faut agir de façon résolue pour ralentir l’accroissement rapide de population. Améliorer l’éducation des femmes a été l’un des facteurs les plus significatifs du déclin de la fécondité, mais éduquer la majorité des filles au Sahel va prendre du temps. De plus, l’attention portée dans le passé à l’espacement plutôt qu’à la limitation des naissances, accompagné de faibles augmentations de la prévalence contraceptive, ne s’est pas traduite en déclins rapides de la fécondité. Il faut aussi  informer les populations quant aux bénéfices d’une taille familiale plus réduite, améliorer l’accès aux contraceptifs et relever l’âge légal au mariage. Ces changements vont réduire la pression sur l’infrastructure existante et les ressources naturelles, permettre plus d’investissements pour les jeunes en matière d’éducation et créer la possibilité d’un dividende démographique à long terme. Des investissements accrus en soins de santé et en éducation peuvent améliorer tant la qualité et que l’étendue des services fournis. Une gouvernance transparente et stable est également cruciale au progrès de la région. Enfin, tant le secteur formel qu’informel doivent être mis à contribution pour augmenter l’emploi de même que pour améliorer la productivité et l’efficacité.

Ces cinq initiatives devraient être mises en place simultanément. Trop souvent, les gouvernements et leurs partenaires ne travaillent que sur un ou deux points en même temps. En effet, étant donné les formidables défis démographiques du Sahel, il faut agir maintenant.

John F. May est Chercheur invité au Population Reference Bureau (PRB). Jean-Pierre Guengant est directeur de recherche émérite à l’Institut de recherche pour le développement à Marseille. Thomas R. Brooke a été stagiaire au PRB. Les auteurs remercient Caroline Lamere, assistante de programme au PRB, pour ses commentaires pertinents sur une version antérieure de cet article.


  1. Carl Haub et Toshiko Kaneda, 2014 World Population Data Sheet (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2014).
  2. World Bank, “World DataBank: World Development Indicators,” voir, consulté le 24 novembre 2014.
  3. World Bank, Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency, 12e édit., voir, consulté le 24 novembre 2014.
  4. World Bank, “Harmonized List of Fragile Situations FY14,” voir, consulté le 24 novembre 2014.
  5. Malcolm Potts et al., Crisis in the Sahel: Possible Solutions and the Consequences of Inaction (Berkeley: The OASIS Initiative, 2013).

Demographic Challenges of the Sahel

(January 2015) This article is a short summary of an essay by John F. May and Jean-Pierre Guengant, “Les défis démographiques des pays sahéliens,” ÉTVDES 4206 (2014): 19-30, which has been used here with kind permission of the French monthly ÉTVDES.

Most regions of the world have experienced gradually declining rates of population growth. However, sub-Saharan Africa’s population is still growing rapidly because the region has not yet embarked on its “demographic transition” from high to low birth and death rates.

The population of sub-Saharan Africa, estimated at 920 million in mid-2014, will more than double in the next 36 years. These projected demographic changes will have tremendous consequences for many issues, from agricultural production to prospects for socioeconomic development, as well as for the political stability of many countries. The Sahel, in particular, will face the most extreme challenges, compounded by the threat of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The Arabic word sahel (“shore”) denotes the transition zone between the Sahara Desert to the north and the savannah plains to the south. It is a semiarid region with an average rainfall between 12 to 20 inches per year. Since the definition of the Sahel is based on climate, it does not abide by strict international borders. Yet, the demographic figures and future population projections only exist at the country level. This article focuses on the 10 countries that make up the Sahel region—Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Sudan (see map).

These 10 countries span over 7 million square kilometers and have close to 135 million inhabitants.1 Some of the larger countries that contain extensive expanses of desert (Mali and Niger) have low population densities of fewer than 20 people per square kilometer. Other geographically smaller countries that have access to the sea (such as Senegal) have population densities of 50 people or more per square kilometer. Landlocked Burkina Faso has a population density of 65 people per square kilometer (see table). Only The Gambia has more than 150 people per square kilometer.

Key Demographic Indicators of the 10 Countries of the Sahel, 2014

Country Population (millions) Annual Rate of Natural Increase (%) Population Density (persons per sq. km.) Total Fertility Rate (average number of children per woman)
Burkina Faso 17.9 3.1 65 5.9
Chad 13.3 3.3 10 6.6
Eritrea 6.5 2.6 56 4.7
The Gambia 1.9 3.1 169 5.6
Guinea-Bissau 1.7 2.5 48 5.0
Mali 15.9 2.9 13 6.1
Mauritania 4.0 2.6 4 4.1
Niger 18.2 3.9 14 7.6
Senegal 13.9 3.2 71 5.3
Sudan 38.8 2.5 21 5.2

Note: Sudan does not include South Sudan.
Source: Carl Haub and Toshiko Kaneda, 2014 World Population Data Sheet (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2014).

The region’s GDP per capita in purchasing power parity is relatively low, ranging from approximately US$900 to less than US$3,000 per capita, with the only significant income coming from natural resources like oil and minerals.2 The World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business report ranks these nations among the least business-friendly, due in large part to their history of political instability.3 Moreover, the World Bank lists half of the nations of the Sahel as fragile states (low-income countries with weak state capacity).4

Significant population growth appears to be the strongest force driving the region’s potentially turbulent future. With annual demographic growth rates ranging from 2.5 percent to nearly 4 percent, the population will continue to grow beyond the region’s capacity. This growth has occurred because of commendable rapid decreases in infant and child mortality but lagging decreases in fertility. With total fertility rates between 4.1 and 7.6 children per woman on average, the region’s population might increase from almost 135 million today to 330 million by 2050 and close to 670 million in 2100. These estimates follow the United Nations medium assumption for fertility reduction, yielding values that these countries do not show signs of actually being able to meet.

The age structure of the 10 countries of the Sahel will remain predominately young. The number of youth—those younger than 20—will double by 2050. Niger will have the highest youth dependency ratio (ratio of those younger than 20, or dependents, to those ages 20 to 64, or working age) for the next 36 years. Even in 2050, Niger will have 132 people younger than 20 for every 100 people ages 20 to 64. The demographic dividend that could be gained from a larger workforce (when relatively more working adults support relatively fewer dependents) appears to be decades away for the majority of the countries of the Sahel.

Increasing temperatures will also be a factor. Climatologists suggest that the temperature of the Sahel will increase by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by 2050 and possibly 8 degrees Celsius by 2100.5 Rainfall will decrease and become more erratic. Agricultural production will decrease from anywhere between 13 percent in Burkina Faso to almost 50 percent in Sudan. Other sectors will also face challenges in the next decades: It is unlikely that basic educational and health care infrastructure will be able to meet the rapidly increasing numbers of youth, nor will the formal sector of the economy be able to create enough jobs for upcoming generations.

The region’s challenges are neither simple nor one-dimensional. The obvious question remains of what can be done. Progress in the Sahel can be achieved through five main initiatives:

  • Accelerating the demographic transition.
  • Strengthening existing infrastructure.
  • Building human capital (education and health).
  • Improving governance.
  • Creating jobs.

First, determined action must be taken to slow rapid population growth. Improving female education has been one of the most significant factors associated with decreased fertility, but educating the majority of girls in the Sahel will take time. Moreover, past focus on birth spacing instead of birth limiting, along with small increases in contraceptive prevalence, have not translated into rapid fertility declines. Populations must also be informed of the benefits of smaller family size, access to contraceptives must be improved, and the legal age of marriage must be raised. These changes will reduce the strain on the existing infrastructure and natural resources, allow for more educational investments in young people, and create the possibility of a demographic dividend in the long run. Increased investments in health care and education can increase both the quality and the range of services provided. Transparent and stable governance is also crucial to regional progress. Finally, both the formal and informal sectors must be tapped to increase employment as well as to improve productivity and efficiency.

These five initiatives should be implemented simultaneously. Too often, governments and their partners work only on one or two at any given time. Indeed, given the formidable demographic challenges of the Sahel, the time for action is now.


  1. Carl Haub and Toshiko Kaneda, 2014 World Population Data Sheet (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2014).
  2. World Bank, “World DataBank: World Development Indicators,” accessed at, on Nov. 24, 2014.
  3. World Bank, Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency, 12th ed., accessed at, on Nov. 24, 2014.
  4. World Bank, “Harmonized List of Fragile Situations FY14,” accessed at, on Nov. 24, 2014.
  5. Malcolm Potts et al., Crisis in the Sahel: Possible Solutions and the Consequences of Inaction (Berkeley: The OASIS Initiative, 2013).