Thursday, July 16, 2009

Drop in Family Planning Funding Undermines Other Humanitarian Goals

Despite the United State's recent increase in family planning funding, a dramatic decrease in international donor funding is taking place, which threatens to unravel other humanitarian gains made in regards to issues such as poverty, hunger, and efforts to counter global warming.

In 1994 the International Conference on Population and Development took place in Cairo and alerted the world to issues of population and development, and the severe consequences for inaction. Following this highly publicized conference, countries worldwide were eager to commit funding, but after reaching a peak in 1995 with U.S.$723 million allotted, a drastic decline has occurred worldwide. The latest estimate, for 2007, shows contributions totaling only about $338 million, which according to UNFPA senior demographer Stan Bernstein, is "a hell of a decline." Furthermore, if one takes inflation into account the decrease appears even more severe.

The recent decline in funding not only hurts family planning services, but also threatens to undermine other humanitarian achievements such as advents made in the arenas of poverty and hunger. Unless their is renewed attention to issues of population and development, as well as an increase in funding for family planning, high fertility, especially in sub-Saharan Africa will simply exacerbate related humanitarian problems such as poverty. UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A Obaid explains how "We have to protect the gains made and ensure that these gains do not slip back" in order to make any sustainable progress.

In an effort to prioritize issues of population and development, UNFPA convened 30 family planning experts in New York late this June including representatives from Bangladesh, Colombia, Guatemala, Kenya, India, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, the U.K. and the U.S. What they found was that countries who felt that they had made significant strides in reproductive health and effective family planning, were compelled to shift funding to other problems that seemed to require more attention. What they failed to realize however, is that such a monetary commitment must be continued if any lasting progress is to be made. Furthermore, many prior efforts were aimed at a specific age group of sexually active young men and women. Now that funding has been decreased, international programmes are having to choose what areas to focus on. This means that someone who was a child during the initial wave of family planning funding, will now find that resources and services are more limited as they become sexually active, and that the only information they will receive is that which funding will allow. One prominent example is in sub-Saharan Africa, where the limited funding has been focused almost entirely on HIV and AIDS, and has failed to address other important issues such as abortion and contraception.

Without an increase in funding, not only will family planning and reproductive health services be diminished, but an endless cycle connecting population with other humanitarian issues will relentlessly continue. If we are to make any strides regarding other issues, such as global warming or hunger, we must continue to address the core of every problem, namely , population. It is PPD's hope that a recommitment to the original goals of the ICPD will occur, and that the United State's recent increase in funding to family planning will emphasize the necessity of such a financial commitment.

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