U.S. Foreign Assistance

World Population Day Congressional Briefing

PAI’s U.S. Government Relations Team wrote this report.

final2.jpgOn Thursday, July 10, PAI and a coalition of more than a dozen partner organizations, including the United Nations Foundation, the Centre for Development & Population Activities (CEDPA), the Communications Consortium Media Center, the Global Health Council, and the Sierra Club, joined with family planning champions Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO) to host a congressional briefing commemorating the 21st annual World Population Day.  This year’s World Population Day theme of “Plan Your Family: Plan Your Future,” highlighted the 40th anniversary of world leaders first declaring that individuals have a basic human right to freely and responsibly determine how many children to have and when to have them.   

The congressional briefing, attended by over 60 advocates and congressional staff, featured remarks by Rep. McCollum, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds use foreign assistance; Rep. Carnahan, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Margaret Neuse, the former Director of USAID’s Office of Population & Reproductive Health; and CEDPA field partners Asih Puji Rahayu (Foundation for Mother and Child Health in Jakarta, Indonesia) and Marilyn Peri (Community Based Health Care in Papua New Guinea).  Moderated by PAI’s Vice President for Government Relations, Tod Preston, the forum provided a timely opportunity for panelists and guests to highlight the need for increasing U.S. funding for international family planning and reproductive health.

For those commemorating World Population Day, “the goal,” according to
Rep. Betty McCollum, “is simple – to provide couples in the world’s
poorest countries the ability to space their children and give mothers
the opportunity to stay healthy, productive and alive.”  Rep. McCollum
is the sponsor of legislation, the Focus on Family Health Worldwide Act, which would significantly increase U.S. investments in family planning programs.

Rep. Carnahan, who traveled with PAI to Ethiopia in February, stressed
the importance of family planning and empowering women to global
security and development and urged greater bipartisan cooperation in
support of these programs.  Rep. Carnahan is the sponsor of the
Ensuring Access to Contraceptives Act, which would double U.S. funding
for contraceptive donations overseas and exempt contraceptives from the
destructive Global Gag Rule.

final1.jpgThe other guest panelists, Margaret Neuse, Marilyn Peri, and Asih Puji
Rahayu, underscored that record numbers of women and families still
lack family planning options and highlighted the need for U.S.
policymakers to reverse a decade of underinvestment in successful
family planning programs.  Ms. Neuse stated that over the last forty
years USAID has identified proven “keys to effective and sustainable
planning programs”:  political commitment, key country-level group
support, providing a range of FP methods through different service
deliveries, adequate and sustained funding, and enhancing community
understanding of the benefits of FP.  

To reduce the levels of unmet need, USAID partners with groups like
CEDPA’s field partners in Indonesia and in Papua New Guinea that help
enhance community understanding of the benefits of family planning. 
“Our experience shows that improving family health is best achieved
when you focus on the entire family,” remarked Asih Puji Rahayu. “By
adding family planning programs, they could better provide for their
existing children.”  In both countries, these organizations implement
innovative outreach techniques to men and local religious leaders,
while also scaling up their comprehensive family planning services in
order to reduce high maternal death rates.

Despite an increase of over 300 million women of reproductive age in
the developing world
since 1995, U.S. government investments in family
planning programs in this same time period have declined by $300
(40%) when accounting for inflation.  Had it not been for
family planning supporters in Congress, including Reps. McCollum and
Carnahan, this decline in funding would have been far greater due to
severe cuts recommended by the Bush Administration.  This decade of
underinvestment in family planning has led, according to Margaret
Neuse, funding shortfalls that contribute to the continued high numbers
of married couples lacking contraception in many poor countries in
sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.  She pointed out, for example, that
the U.S. only provides a total of $8 million for family planning
programs in 15 countries in West Africa with high unmet need.

As Marilyn Peri stated, “we still have hope” that the last half-century
of family planning successes will soon be replicated for the millions
of families still lacking access to contraception.  Increased political
and financial commitment from the U.S. will be essential to achieving
this goal.  Margaret Neuse summed it up best: “adequate and consistent
funding” from the U.S. is essential.

Photo 1: PAI’s Vice President for Government Relations, Tod Preston, introduces family planning champions Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO).

Photo 2: Margaret Neuse, former Director of USAID’s Office of Population & Reproductive Health, speaks at the briefing along with Asih Puji Rahayu (Foundation for Mother and Child Health in Jakarta, Indonesia) and Marilyn Peri (Community Based Health Care in Papua New Guinea).

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