Population growth will not wait for US recovery

The incomprehensible US 2012 budget process has just lurched across another of its crisis deadlines. A House of Representatives vote on Tuesday will keep the US government open for business for another seven weeks, if I understand it correctly.

This particular crisis must have ranked highly amongst all the others because both the New York Times and IPS News have published long articles fretting about the implications for the State Department in general and foreign aid in particular.

The stated conclusion is that all sectors of the aid budget are going to take a significant hit. The unspoken inference is that reproductive health and family planning programmes will take the biggest hit of all. That’s the way it is when Congress falls under Republican control.

This is going to be a tough period for those of us who believe that each dollar of spending on reproductive health probably achieves more than any other aid intervention to further the well-being of both the planet and its female citizens.

My routine work today was not untypical in uncovering two painfully real reminders of the urgent need for more not less support.

The New Times of Rwanda reported on a family planning campaign rally attended by government officials, hospital staff and community health workers. They wrestled with the predictions that, in Africa’s most densely populated country, the population will more than double by 2035.

Almost half of Rwandan women of reproductive age have no access to family planning services.

Meanwhile, the Indian media has somewhat reluctantly reported that the country tops the league table of results of a global survey conducted by a consortium of NGOs concerned with women’s rights and population issues.

The survey questioned young people about their use of contraception in sexual encounters over the last 12 months. As many as 72 per cent of sexually active young people in India had sex with new partners without any protection. Many of them complained of difficulty in accessing contraceptives.

Universal provision of sexual and reproductive health services is the optimum strategy for limiting world population growth, and enhancing women’s rights to control their lives. US Congress can make a difference.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK