Bringing sexual and reproductive health in the urban contexts to the forefront of the development agenda: The case for prioritizing the urban poor

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Estimates suggest that over 90% of population increase in the least developed countries over the next four decades will occur in urban areas. These increases will be driven both by natural population growth and rural-urban migration. Moreover, despite its status as the world's least urbanized region, the urban population in the sub-Saharan Africa region is projected to increase from under 40% currently to over 60% by 2050. Currently, approximately 70% of all urban residents in the region live in slums or slum-like conditions. Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) risks for the urban poor are severe and include high rates of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and poor maternal and child health outcomes. However, the links between poverty, urbanization, and reproductive health priorities are still not a major focus in the broader development agenda. Building on theoretical and empirical data, we show that SRH in urban contexts is critical to the development of healthy productive urban populations and, ultimately, the improvement of quality of life. We posit that a strategic focus on the sexual and reproductive health of urban residents will enable developing country governments achieve international goals and national targets by reducing health risks among a large and rapidly growing segment of the population. To that end, we identify key research, policy and program recommendations and strategies required for bringing sexual and reproductive health in urban contexts to the forefront of the development agenda.






Strengthening Evidence for Programming on Unintended Pregnancy (STEP UP)