Posted by: DCox | February 2, 2009

How Do We Understand Our Impact on Others?

How do we understand the issues of this world? They can be very complex and multi-faceted. I’m not even sure how to write about this, because I’m not sure I fully understand all of the consequences.

Read the article below related to funding for family planning in Africa. Funding for abortions was banned in federal programs associated with international development during the Bush administration. Okay, I can understand and support that. However, the journalist writting the article makes it sound as if the benefits of the PEPFAR program (program to combat AIDS/HIV abroad) were undermined by this legislation [… by the way, the PEPFAR program is one the best things that President Bush implemented.] That leaves me wondering if that interpretation is accurate.

With the changing of the guard in Washington, the direction of the funding is already changing. And unfortunately, the director of the PEPFAR program has been fired — not because the program isn’t effective, but as a result of politics.

Kibera, a slum in Nairobi - about 100 acres in size, 3/4 million people

Kibera, a slum in Nairobi - about 100 acres in size, 3/4 million people

This I do know…family planning is needed in Africa because the reproductive health of women isn’t protected by cultural norms. Girls in rural areas are married off often by the age of 14 when they become the third or fourth wife of one man. It’s important for elders to have lots of children so that some survive to support their parents in old age. Men travel to the cities for work and return home with HIV. In slums like Kibera, women struggle to feed their children and mortality rate for children under five is extremely high.

Obama’s rule change means funds for family planning will increase

by katharine houreld

Nairobi’s sprawling Kibera slum is far from America but not from America’s battle over abortion.

Aid workers and experts say President Barack Obama’s decision to allow aid money to flow again to international groups that offer abortion counseling will help restart programs desperately needed in Africa, the continent hardest hit by a so-called “gag rule.”

Dr. Walter Odhiambo, the country director for Marie Stopes Kenya, said his family-planning organization had been limping along on European aid because of the U.S. rule Obama overturned on Jan. 23 in one of his first presidential acts.

Now, Odhiambo said, he would be applying for U.S. funds he hoped to use to expand counseling and other services, particularly in rural Kenya.

The policy banned U.S. government money from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion.

Its critics call it the “global gag rule,” because it prohibits funding for groups that lobby to legalize abortion or promote it as a family planning method. That can affect a range of services provided by private groups on a continent where governments can meet few of their citizens’ health needs.

“The biggest impact has been in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Wendy Turnbull, a researcher for Washington-based Population Action International, which lobbies on family-planning issues.

Turnbull applauded the Bush administration for spending millions to fight AIDS and other health threats in Africa but said the gag rule undermined that effort.

For instance, she said, groups that could have helped distribute the condoms the U.S. was supplying to fight AIDS were denied funding because of their stance on abortion.

“When you are making rules, it’s not right to just look at the immediate effects,” said Nkandu Luo, a Zambian former minister of health who currently heads her country’s independent Society for Women and AIDS.

A study by the Washington-based Center for Reproductive Rights said the policy hit hardest in Africa, the fastest-growing and poorest continent. Latin Americans and Asians were more likely to accept the ban and keep funding, either because they embraced its intent or relied more on U.S. money, the study concluded.

Clinics serving over 1.5 million women closed in Kenya, said Marie Stopes Kenya and Family Health Options Kenya. Contraceptive availability in Zambia was reduced. AIDS programs run by family planning groups in Ethiopia were affected.

Even without the U.S. policy, abortions would be controversial here. They are illegal in almost all African countries, many of which have conservative Christian or Muslim populations.

Marie Stopes Kenya, which does not offer abortions, closed two slum clinics after losing its USAID funding because of its association with Marie Stopes International, one of the world’s largest family planning organizations.

Odhiambo, the country director for Marie Stopes Kenya, said it was likely that women who would have used his group’s contraceptive services became pregnant instead and joined the 300,000 Kenyan women that Marie Stopes says seek dangerous, illegal abortions each year.


  1. Yes… this issue is much more complicated than it initially seems. We hope to start a prenatal care center in Uganda this year. We should talk! Peace!


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