Sunday, November 3, 2013

Will Family Planning Remain Fertile Ground for AusAid?

Two articles from Kenya's Daily Nation, both published on 30 october 2013, highlight the challenges for developing countries in addressing the link between family planning and population growth:
Kenya has one of the highest fertility rates in the world with a total fertility of 8 children per woman.
Contraceptives uptake reduced due to fertility awareness
The headline is a bit confusing but the content of the story is clear.
Worldwide, 7.3 million of the births are by girls between the age of 15 and 19 years of which two million births of this are by girls under the age of 15. Of the two million births, 90 per cent of them are already in marriage, revealing that girls are being married off at very tender age.

Kenya contributes to this percentage by having 103 in every 1000 pregnancies being attributed to girls between 15 and 19 years.
Teenage pregnancies: Kenya's alarming statistics
[Thanks to Facebook friend Javin Ochieng from Mathare, Naoribi for the links. We met at the 2012 Global Voices Summit.]

This news comes at a time of cutbacks to Australia's overseas aid. Coincidentally, on the following day Tanya Plibersek, newly elected deputy leader of the Labor opposition, raised related issues at the Australian Council for International Development. The former Health minister told the 2013 ACFID Council: Driving Change Post 2015:
We believe that a society as wealthy as ours has an obligation to advance the development of the poorest people, communities, and nations, and assist them to a better life.
Tanya warned the new Liberal/National coalition government about its $A 4.5 billion cut to overseas aid:
On coming to government we first abolished the Harradine amendment which prohibited Australian aid money going to organisations which delivered family planning services. Most recently we doubled aid funding for family planning services.

Let me say this very clearly – I will fight any effort by Tony Abbott to strip aid from family planning services in developing countries.
Tanya spoke on the day that AusAid ceased to be a separate entity following its controversial integration by the Abbott government into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

AusAid's FAMILY PLANNING AND THE AID PROGRAM: GUIDING PRINCIPLES, published in 2009, seem very middle of the road at first:
Improving access to appropriate, affordable and safe contraceptives and products is an important component of effective family planning services. By ensuring women and men have access to comprehensive family planning services and advice, Australia aims to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and thereby minimise the need for women to resort to abortion.
However, they clearly sanction abortion in the implementation criteria:
The Guidelines support the same range of family planning and reproductive health services for women in developing countries as are supported for women in Australia, consistent with the national laws of the partner country concerned and in line with the ICPD Programme of Action [International Conference on Population and Development 1994}. The Guidelines place a gestational term limit on abortion of up to 20 weeks.
'Driving Change Post 2015' focussed on 'How can the Australian development sector respond to people living in poverty and help them drive positive change?' The conference title, of course, referred to the UN Millennium Development Goals whose target date is 2015.

In 2000 the United Nations established 8 ambitious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the Developing World:

GOAL 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

GOAL 2: Achieve universal primary education

GOAL 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

GOAL 4: Reduce child mortality

GOAL 5: Improve maternal health

GOAL 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

GOAL 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

GOAL 8: Develop a global partnership for development

The elephant goalkeeper in the MDG game has always been population control. The recent BYND 2015 Global Youth Summit in Costa Rica included this in its declaration:
We seek tools to better inform us about healthy lifestyles and health concerns, which help us act on that information, especially in areas of sexual and reproductive health, and in dealing with issues of disability, including knowledge to reduce problems of stigma and fear associated with many diseases
Let's hope that family planning aid does not become a partisan issue in Australia as it has been in the United States with the global gag rule enforced by Republican administrations and reversed under Democrat presidents. Family planning and sexual and reproductive health programs that mention the 'A' word [abortion] or sometimes even just the 'C' word [contraceptive] do not get funded when the rule applies.

The ACFID has over 100 non-government members working in the international aid and development sectors. Some of them will be attending Progress 2013 conference on 7-8 November in Melbourne to further discuss issues and share strategies. A number of the organisations are faith-based and may have their own concerns with family planning projects.

[My posts for the 2010 European Journalism Centre's Th!nk About It - Developing World blogging competition range over many of the issues related to population, family planning and sex education.]

No comments:

Post a Comment