Population Matters

For all the Right Reasons: A Big Boost in Family Planning Assistance

July 8th, 2009

This week, just days before the July 11th commemoration of World Population Day, the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on a foreign aid appropriations bill that provides $648 million in funding for U.S. international family planning assistance programs.

It’s critically important that the House rejects any attempt to reduce this funding level. While the $648 million appropriation is $103 million more than this year’s funding level, it still falls far short of what’s needed.

Earlier this year, five former directors of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health at USAID offered a special report, “Making the Case for U.S. International Family Planning Assistance” that urged Congress to boost funding to $1.2 billion in 2010 and to $1.6 billion by 2014. That recommendation was based on several factors, including the level of unmet need for family planning in 53 countries, a careful assessment of USAID’s ability to administer a program boost of that size, and a review of the payoffs that would result from a higher funding level.

Citing earlier USAID research about the benefits of family planning and a report by the Global Health Council, the former directors indicated that every $100 million in family planning adds 3.6 million contraceptive users; prevents 2.1 million unintended pregnancies, 825,000 abortions, 70,000 infant deaths; and saves 4,000 maternal lives.  And citing the results of another USAID study, the former directors reported that a $27 million investment in family planning in Zambia would cut program costs by $111 million due to cost savings in education and health programs.

Factor in what family planning means in many countries in terms of the environment, food security, and economic development, and a big boost in international family planning assistance becomes the legislative equivalent of a “no-brainer.”  Let’s hope so.

Urban health workers monitor children and women’s health, and provide contraceptives to women through USAID health programs. Anita Khemka/USAID

Urban health workers monitor children and women’s health, and provide contraceptives to women through USAID health programs. Anita Khemka/USAID

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