Population Bomb: How do we get more development practitioners & NGOs interested in family planning?

An article from the New York Times “Maternal Deaths Focus Harsh Light on Uganda” discusses how 340,000 women a year die from pregnancy related causes in Africa. The article focuses on poor healthcare and lack of access to health care, but I have to raise the question why doesn’t the article bring family-planning into the equation?

Another New York Times article “Seven Billion” asks the question that if we are challenged by supporting 7 billion people on the planet now—how will we support an additional 3 billion people by the end of this century? Author Joel E. Cohen points out that nearly 2/3 of sexually active women under 50 use birth control “which saves the lives of mothers who would otherwise die in childbirth.” He also suggests that smaller families allow families to focus on the well-being of their children.

Nicholas Kristof’s article “An African Adventure, and a Revelation” claims that only 23% of women in sub-Saharan Africa use contraceptives and that some women had never even heard of family planning.

In several hundred projects that I’ve watched our online students develop in the past two years, I’ve only seen three or four projects that address family planning, contraceptives or reproductive health.

An unwed teenage mother with her child in Ghana
One team of students—Genevieve Lamond (UK), Martha Njoroge (Kenya), Kathy Tate-Bradish (US)—are collaborating on a project in Kenya, with a key component on promoting the use of condoms—but it is related more to a central theme of their project—the prevention of the spread of AIDS—than in family-planning. This group definitely deserves strong accolades for tackling this sensitive and complex challenge.

Why is this? Why aren’t more development groups working on projects related to such incredibly important issues as family-planning—when a lack of it reduces family prosperity, access to education, food security, maternal and infant health—and maternal deaths? How can we raise interest in family planning?

What are your thoughts?

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The Center for Sustainable Development specializes in providing sound, evidence-based information, tools and training for humanitarian development professionals worldwide. CSDi is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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