Big slump in family planning funds

Posted: 4 April 2006

Funding for family planning has dropped precipitately in the last decade,and now makes up only 10 per cent of all population-related assistance, compared to more than half in 1994, the United Nations was warned yesterday.

More funding is urgently needed to enable 200 million women in developing countries to exercise their human right to determine the size of their families, says Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.

Without these services, the numbers of unwanted pregnancies and abortions will continue to rise and the lives of women and children as well as the Millennium Development Goals would be put at risk, she told the UN Commission on Population and Development.

Even though donor assistance to population issues has doubled in the past five years,she said, "funding for international family planning has dropped from more than half of all spending on population assistance to less than 10 per cent." This slide occurred between 1995 and 2004.

Shift to AIDS funding

Despite the general increase in overall population assistance, Ms. Obaid warned that its current level was insufficient for today's needs. Also, the majority of resources are mobilised by a few major donors, with a pronounced shift towards funding for HIV/AIDS at the expense of other vital population work, such as family planning.

Financing for population issues affects international migration flows, said Ms. Obaid. "Today, the highest unmet need for family planning is in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in four married women wants to use family planning, but has no access to these services." These, she noted, "are the same countries with the highest rates of poverty and population growth, factors that often lead people to migrate".

Women comprise almost half of the world's international migrants, said Ms. Obaid, and many of them risk gender discrimination, violence, and abuse, or, in the worst cases, fall victims of ruthless traffickers. This creates "an urgent need to integrate gender and human rights into migration policies and for nations to work together to curb trafficking and bring traffickers to justice."

Ms. Obaid also noted the severe shortage in many countries of health workers who have migrated to industrialized nations, which is "particularly devastating for countries most affected by HIV/AIDS." Receiving countries can help by directing parts of their development assistance towards education and training in general, and health sector workers in particular, in countries from which they draw migrants.