Population Council

Annual Report 2018

For more than 65 years, our organization has used the power of evidence to amplify the voices and expand the choices of the world’s most marginalized people. Our unique combination of biomedical and social science research has enabled us to understand people’s lived realities and to develop and evaluate products and programs to address their needs. And when we demonstrate what does and doesn’t work, and design tailor-made solutions, people’s voices are transformed into smart development investments.

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The year 2018 was one of rising voices, from growing demands for global action on violence against women to the UN’s dire warnings of climate catastrophe. In an increasingly noisy world, evidence is more important than ever. Rigorous research helps reveal and elevate the voices and visibility of the world’s most marginalized people. That is why we are proud to lead the Population Council.


From improving policies, to strengthening program design, to developing new technologies, the Population Council is expanding voice and choice with, and for, those most in need.

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We've pioneered a rigorous understanding of the unique needs of adolescent girls and tailored programs to empower them with the knowledge, skills, and protective assets they need to thrive. Building on a growing body of evidence, we continue to refine what programs work, for which girls, and how to expand impact.


The Center for Biomedical Research is a vibrant hub of scientific research paving the way toward expanded choice, convenience, and control in sexual and reproductive health. Our scientists have worked for decades to develop the next generation of safe, effective long-acting reversible contraception and HIV and STI prevention options.


Sexual and gender-based violence is a pervasive global health problem, one that 35% of women worldwide will experience in their lifetimes. The Population Council-led Africa Regional SGBV Network identifies effective responses and improves policies in East and Southern Africa.




Assessing Climate-Change Effects on Pregnancy
Bangladesh is one of the most climatevulnerable countries in the world and in recent years has experienced increased flooding and coastal intrusion. Population Council researchers set out to explore the potential effect of the resulting water salinity on hypertensive disorders, a leading cause of maternal and perinatal death in low-income countries. A recent Council study confirmed a dramatic increased risk for hypertensive disorders in pregnancy in high-risk regions, underscoring the urgent need for improved antenatal, delivery, and postnatal maternal care.

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Empowering Adolescent Girls
Abriendo Oportunidades (“Opening Opportunities”) began 15 years ago to empower poor and isolated Mayan girls with life skills and knowledge. Silvia Tum, a member of the original mentor class, is now directing the program, which has reached 15,000 adolescent girls. Building on the program’s high-quality evaluations, Abriendo—which has expanded across the region, including in Mexico—is now enhancing distance learning opportunities where very few secondary education opportunities exist, exploring economic incentives, and mobilizing their own political representation—embodied by the development of mentors’ associations REDMI and Na’leb’ak’.

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Expanding Family Planning for Factory Workers
As part of USAID’s flagship Evidence Project, Population Council researchers identified opportunities to expand the role of the private sector to provide family planning in Egypt and are now generating evidence on scalable interventions to reach people ages 18–34. The project, which includes a peer-educator program for factory workers across the country, has garnered support from factory owners and local stakeholders, including establishment of the first women’s health clinic to provide family planning and reproductive health services for nearly 20,000 female factory workers.

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Tracing Change in Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
In Kenya, 21 percent of women ages 15–49 have experienced female-genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C), the cutting of external female genitalia. New research from the Population Council has found that although national prevalence of FGM/C has declined, it remains high in some communities, such as in north eastern Kenya. A growing body of evidence gathered by the Council on the prevalence, risk factors, consequences, and role of social norms in continuing FGM/C is informing sustained national and sub-national efforts to address and ultimately eradicate the practice.

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Improving Maternal Health through Self-Help Groups
More than a quarter of the world’s reported maternal and child mortality occurs in India, disproportionately affecting women living in Bihar. Since 2012, the Population Council has been the lead evaluator of the effectiveness of self-help groups—small groups of women who gather to learn skills and support each other— and the integration of health and nutrition programming. Preliminary results found significant improvement in life-saving maternal health and newborn care practices. Based on the Council’s findings, the government, together with the World Bank, is now scaling-up the intervention across 685,000 groups in Bihar, reaching almost seven million women.

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Self-Testing for HIV
Men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV in Nigeria as they are criminalized and face considerable stigma in the health care sector, and beyond. To help facilitate private and direct access to testing, the Population Council has led research to demonstrate the feasibility of delivering HIV self-testing kits to MSM. Increasing access to HIV self-testing in Nigeria could enhance uptake of HIV testing and linkage to care among this key demographic. The results of our research has directly influenced the development of the Operational Guidelines on HIV Self Testing, recently launched by Nigeria’s Minister of Health.

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