/ 4 October 2008

US cuts funding for condoms in African clinics

The US government is cutting its funding for the supply of contraceptives to family planning clinics run by Marie Stopes International in Africa, alleging that it condones forced abortions in China.

MSI has categorically denied that it supports forced abortions or coercive sterilisation in China or anywhere else in the world, and says that the actions of the Bush government will result in more abortions in Africa, as women will be unable to get contraceptives and will end up with unwanted pregnancies.

One of George Bush’s first acts after becoming president was to stop all US funds to foreign organisations that helped women in any way to get an abortion, including providing advice. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) lost $34-million that Congress had appropriated for it in 2002.

In a letter to Dana Hovig, chief executive officer of MSI, based in London, the assistant administrator for global health at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kent Hill, noted that MSI did not currently receive any funds from the US government.

“However, we understand that in some countries, MSI receives USAID-funded contraceptives and/or condoms from host country governments that receive them from USAID,” he wrote on September 26. In view of MSI’s work as the main implementing agency for UNFPA’s work in China — “which supports the Chinese national family planning programme” — USaid is telling its missions “to work with these governments to ensure that no such USAID-funded commodities are distributed to MSI at this time”.

MSI says the USAID edict will seriously hamper its work in at least six African countries – Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. USAID is the biggest supplier of contraceptives in many African countries.

According to MSI, the inevitable consequence will be more abortions. It estimates that it will lose $1,5-million worth of supplies in the next year, resulting in 325 000 extra unwanted pregnancies in the six African countries and 65 000 abortions.

“At a time when governments have pledged to increase their commitment to improving the health of women, only the Bush administration could find logic in the idea that they can reduce abortion and promote choice for women in China by causing more abortion,” said Hovig. – guardian.co.uk