The importance of meeting the unmet need for contraception is nowhere more urgent than in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, where the fertility decline is stalling and total unmet need exceeds 30 per cent among married women. In Ghana, where fertility levels vary considerably, demographic information at sub-national level is essential for building effective family planning programmes. We used small-area estimation techniques, linking data from the 2003 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey to the 2000 Ghana Population and Housing Census, to derive district-level estimates of contraceptive use and unmet need for contraception. The results show considerable variation between districts in contraceptive use and unmet need. The prevalence of contraceptive use varies from 4.1 to 41.7 per cent, while that of the use of modern methods varies from 4.0 to 34.8 per cent. The findings identify districts where family planning programmes need to be strengthened.