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Family-Planning-Reduces-Poverty

Latin America and the Caribbean provide valuable examples of how family planning can reduce poverty.

Family planning involves strategies to delay childbirth, space births over time and avoid unintended pregnancies. When women and men can control the size of their families, they are more likely to have the resources to support their children.

A recent report, “Family Planning in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Achievements of 50 Years,” shares many success stories of family planning research and programs in this region.

The current contraceptive prevalence rate in this region is 74%. This is one of the highest rates within the developing world. The rest of the world can learn from success in Latin America.

With the rise in contraception use, Latin America has seen an increase in educational participation, a decrease in the infant mortality rate and a more stable economic climate.

A few of the most effective strategies include the work of dynamic NGOs with new methods of family planning, financial and technical assistance from USAID, the development of local expertise, and availability and access to research data.

The family planning strategies developed from clinic-based efforts include direct delivery of contraceptives to community-based awareness efforts involving mass media.

The use of mass media to change cultural norms and attitudes proved to be an effective strategy. The use of radio and television helped increase awareness about family planning and strengthen support. Traditionally, families in the region had many children and did not use contraception. This put a strain on limited resources. For families to accept family planning methods, this required a change in belief about how families should be created and maintained.

In Mexico, popular singers, Tatiana and Johnny, recorded songs and produced music videos that supported responsible sex. For example, the song titled “Detente” or “Wait” in English, suggesting ideas to delay childbirths or wait to have sex.

While this region of the world has achieved great success and can serve as a model for areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, there is still work to be done. Adolescent fertility rates remain high, and young, rural women of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have access to family planning resources. There is a need for continued research and commitment to reach all people.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Carolina Population Center, Carolina Population Center 2
Photo: YouTube

United Nations Funding
Earlier this month, U.S. Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona introduced a bill to prohibit any government agency from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the grounds that the organization isn’t in line with America’s policy agenda.

The bill, H.R. 2678, is the fourth bill introduced by Salmon as a part of his “Shrink Our Spending Initiative,” a budget plan to cut what Salmon has deemed “wasteful taxpayer-funded programs.” It is also the second bill of its kind to go before Congress in the last 5 years.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund activities that aren’t in line with our national priorities,” said Salmon, calling the UNFPA a “pro-abortion organization,” according to a SonoranNews.com report.

But according to the United Nations Population Fund FAQ page, the UNFPA does not promote abortion as a method of family planning. Rather, it works to promote family planning measures such as the use of condoms and female birth control. However, the organization does work to address the impact of abortions on women’s health, and to assure that in nations where abortions are legal, it is safe and accessible.

 

Learn why the military is requesting that Congress better fund efforts to combat extreme poverty.

 

The UNFPA operates as a subsidiary of the United Nations General Assembly to address population and development issues. Started in 1969, the United Nations Population Fund now operates in 150 countries, and has been instrumental in reducing the complications of pregnancy and childbirth in developing nations.

Sexual and reproductive health problems are the leading cause of death and disability for women in developing nations, and according to the UNFPA, some 225 million women lack access to family planning measures.

The goal of the United Nations Population Fund is to assure that all women have access to safe and effective family planning measures and safe deliveries and to make sure that every pregnancy is wanted.

In 2013, the United States was among the top 10 core donors to the United Nations Population Fund, contributing nearly three percent of the UNFPA’s total contributions for the year. If H.R. 2678 passes, it will eliminate all government contributions to that total.

The bill regarding United Nations funding was first introduced on June 4, 2015, and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign affairs. According to a Huffington Post report, the Committee has already approved a $150 million cut to family planning and reproductive health programs. Such program cuts may jeopardize the health of an estimated 225 million women in developing countries who lack access to safe family planning, according to the Huffington Post.

Gina Lecher

Sources: UNFPA, Congress.gov, Sonoran News, Huffington Post
Photo: Hill Heat

pathfinder_international
Clarence Gamble was born in 1894 in Cincinnati, Ohio and proceeded to attend a slew of universities including the likes of Princeton and Harvard University, where at the latter he received his M.D. degree. Following, he became heavily involved in birth control organizations and research. He worked alongside Planned Parenthood and initiated projects to study population growth in countries such as India and Japan.

In 1957, Gamble founded the Pathfinder Fund, an organization dedicated to providing a wider audience of people with access to safe, efficient and helpful reproductive health services. The fund is donation-based, which came into play as early as the 1960s. In fact in the 1960s the USAID and Office of Population donated $10 million to the organization, thus proving the government’s support of the discussed issues.

Pathfinder was already operating globally in the 60’s and 70’s opening offices in Latin America, Indonesia, Egypt, Chile, the Philippines and actively participating in population schemes in various African countries. Over the decades, the Pathfinder Fund continued to grow and, by the 90’s, it was the Pathfinder International.

In 1996, Pathfinder won the UN Population Award, an award given to someone who has raised awareness of population issues and solutions. And more recently in the 2000’s Pathfinder began the African Youth Alliance program aimed toward people 10-24 years of age in African countries like Botswana and Ghana. It was formed in order to assist with reproductive health.

Nowadays, Pathfinder International continues their hunt for better sexual and reproductive health care for all. They have six main focus areas: Adolescents, HIV/AIDS, Contraception and Family Planning, Advocacy, Abortion and Maternal and Newborn Health.

For example of their comprehensive care, as part of their abortion focus, Pathfinder not only supports a woman’s right to an abortion, but also advocates for safe abortions and rigorous post-abortion care. The organization accomplishes this in a number of ways one being through legislation, and another by funding an expanded number of professionals who can provide the medical and psychological services needed.

Another focus area, the Contraception and Family Planning focus, is also a worldwide project for Pathfinder. Over the years, Pathfinder has involved itself in over 100 countries attempting to integrate family planning concepts and to provide contraception to those in need of it. Above all people need to be educated, and Pathfinder does their best to also take on that responsibility.

Pathfinder International encourages the public to do its part as well. People can host fundraisers and events of that nature to provide contraceptives to people. One of the easiest ways to support the cause is for people to use their voices. People can become a part of their advocacy network or even start a conversation about reproductive health on a public forum. And lastly, Americans can vote for legislation to continue this type of focus. In an ever-growing population, it is important to be as conscious as possible of the world’s sexual and reproductive health.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: Pathfinder International, Harvard Library

Family_Planning
As the sixth most populous country in the world, Pakistan has an estimated population of 173 million people, with almost 55 percent being of childbearing age. Currently, the country has the highest total fertility rate in South Asia, which many attribute to the large amount of child marriages.

More than half of the women get married by the age of twenty, while almost 15 percent are married by the age of fifteen. Since females tend to marry young, contraceptive prevalence has remained at a mere 30 percent due to a lack of reproductive education and the fact that young girls are easily manipulated by their husbands to not use contraceptives. Lack of health education, lack of access to health facilities and lack of funding all lead to lower use of contraceptives.

A majority of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, and the influence of religion is prevalent in all aspects of life, including family planning. Women have a great fear of social disapproval by religious leaders and family members that would come from the use contraceptives.

With the Government of Pakistan only spending around 2 percent of its budget for education and health services, problems arise regarding access to health facilities and family planning services. The lack of funding has resulted in a very low contraceptive prevalence rate, leading to almost 25 percent of pregnancies being unintended. These higher rates of unwanted pregnancies contribute to unsafe abortions and higher maternal mortality rates.

A deficit in family planning services could potentially hinder Pakistan’s ability to reach several millennium development goals, including improving maternal health, empowering women and combating diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Poverty also plays a key role in determining the size of the family, with roughly 22 percent of citizens living below the poverty line. Many believe that having more children will generate a greater source of income for the family since those children can be put to work, but having more mouths to feed can also perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

In order to address the issues of family planning and maternal health, it is important for the government to address the root causes of the problem. There is significantly less access to healthcare in the rural parts of Pakistan, so there needs to be a push to improve infrastructure and establish health clinics closer to these parts of the country. Health and sex education is also essential in order to stop the country from overpopulating.

Unfortunately, the poor suffer disproportionately when accessing health care in underdeveloped countries. Poverty is associated with an increase in many of the medical risk factors associated with pregnancy outcomes. Success depends on gaining a local understanding of the dimensions of access to health care services, along with sustained efforts by national governments and the international community to improve family planning services for the poor.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: USAIDGHSP, JPMA
Photo: Flickr

remote control contraceptive
In less than four years, women could be receiving a remote control contraceptive. The implanted microchip provides a reliable dose of hormones every day for 16 years, which could make family planning and contraception much easier for women in the developing world.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-backed project is based off of research done in the 1990s by Professor Robert Langer of MIT. Langer leased his technology to MicroCHIPS, a company currently developing implants to release osteoporosis treatments into the body over regular intervals.

The microchip, roughly the size of a Scrabble tile at 20mm x 20mm x 7mm, has wells filled with the hormone levonorgestrel. When activated, a small electric charge triggers every day, melting the covering of the wells and releasing 30 micrograms of levonorgestrel into the body. The wells are covered with a mixture of titanium and platinum, which causes no harm to the body when melted.

The chip can be implanted in the abdomen, upper arm or buttocks. The process to inject the contraceptive is fairly simple, taking less than 30 minutes and using a local anesthetic.

Since many women may want to take a break from the birth control before the end of 16 years, the remote control allows them to switch their treatment on and off themselves. This puts power in the hands of women. There are security issues, such as the possibility for hacking, which could be a major problem if women do not realize their dosing has been tampered with. MicroCHIPS has promised that the control must be used right next to the skin, so no one can interfere with a women’s contraception without her knowledge.

Another issue is that injectable contraceptives do not protect against STDs, and some have even been shown to increase the chance of contracting HIV. Also, becoming fertile again after using hormones can take a while. These issues have not been addressed by the company.

This is not the first injectable contraceptive, but it lasts the longest. The most durable contraceptive on the market right now lasts only five years. This microchip could simplify women’s lives all across the developing world. Injectable contraceptives are already popular in these countries, so making the switch would be easy to do.

Burkina Faso will soon implement the contraceptive Sayana Press, as will Niger, Senegal and Uganda. Sayana Press only lasts three months, and while the countries will provide delivery services for women who cannot come to hospitals or clinics every few months, it is still difficult to reach every woman in need of an injection. Some women may also forget to get a new injection.

South Africa currently has a system for a three-year contraceptive. The device is similar, except it cannot be remotely controlled and it must be replaced sooner. It is a Silicone, matchstick-sized implant made by Merck and marketed as Implanon. The Stanger Hospital in South Africa actually ran out of the implants and is struggling to provide enough for the women who want the contraception.

There is a large desire for this kind of contraceptive in the developing world, and a controllable device could be the key to making family planning easier for women.

There are also further applications for implantable drug dispensers beyond female contraception. The technology could be applied to other treatments, like MicroCHIPS’ work with osteoporosis treatment. If trials prove successful, it is possible that many other drugs could be put in the wells and released periodically.

The contraceptive will be submitted for testing in 2015, and by 2018 the microchips could be on the market. The claim is that they will be “competitively priced,” making the technology a real possibility for women around the world to have a worry-free method of birth control.

– Monica Roth

Sources: Elite Daily, Extreme Tech, The Guardian, CNet, Africa Science News, Daily Maverick, MicroCHIPS
Photo: The Telegraph

reproductive rights
Iranian officials are taking steps to restrict access to birth control options in Iran, in hopes of increasing fertility rates and population growth.

Last week, Iranian lawmakers ratified a bill which would ban birth control surgeries and criminalize any act to reduce fertility. According to the bill, every individual who performs a vasectomy or tubectomy or engages in sterilization could face up to five years of imprisonment. This new bill indicates a dramatic shift from progressive population policies previously implemented in Iran.

In the late 1980s, Iran launched a national family planning project, as the country was faced with one of the fastest population growth rates in the world. The baby boom was a result of Iranian authorities’ demand for more soldiers in the 1979 Revolution.

By introducing birth control policies, Iran succeeded in reducing the uncontrolled population growth from its peak of 3.2 percent in the 1980s to a current low of 1.22 percent. The policies have also allowed Iranian women to make significant strides, as women now comprise 60 percent of college students, and socioeconomic trends show that most women choose to develop careers rather than starting families.

However, Iranian officials have recently begun to worry about the low birthrates and the projection of the country’s population in the coming decades. In 2012, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a 14-point decree that promoted population growth to 150 million or more. He established a goal of increasing the population by 76 million, claiming in his decree that attaining this goal would “strengthen national identity.”

In response, Mahmoud Almadinejad’s conservative government eliminated the population and birth control budgets of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. The government even legally agreed to pay Iranian families for every new child produced. This is quite a significant turnaround from the “Fewer Kids, Better Life” motto widely promoted in the 1980s.

Furthermore, a new set of policies were established by the Expediency Council to advance Khamenei’s goal. These policy reforms include encouraging youth to marry at a younger age, financially supporting young couples, providing mothers with special resources, ensuring the health and proper nutrition of the people and reducing population pressures.

The objective of these conventions is not only to increase population, but also to balance the country’s challenging demographic profile, which foresees an older population, in the future.

The new population regulations will particularly target Iranian women, threatening the legal rights they have obtained in the past few decades. Female Iranian activists regard the new policy reforms as a method to curtail women’s economic, political and financial roles, and restrain them to their houses.

For women in the rural working class, the elimination of reproductive services, including free contraception and health care, will leave them with more children to support and no education or share of job markets. According to the Statistical Centre of Iran, women only make up 12.4 percent of Iran’s work force and, with these new policies, this figure will only drop.

These recently employed policies, in addition to the pending bill that involves punishments and restrictions, denotes a complete reversal of women’s reproductive rights in Iran.

– Abby Bauer

Sources: Global Post, Al Monitor, Huffington Post
Photo: National Geographic

fertility_awareness_contraception
Few things in our lives are controlled, understood and maintained on our own. When we go to the grocery store, people may see the bread on the shelves but ignore how flour, sugar, water and yeast reacted to put it there in the first place. So too can be said of the cars we drive, buses we ride and bikes we steer, all of which may and typically are maintained by a specialized group that leaves the rest of us ignorant.

As individuals we rely on others to inform us how our lives should be shaped and run. We are told that this is fine, that these specialists exist to make our lives more convenient and that we do not need to understand how everything works. The time saved allows us to focus on our own pursuits.

For women, our bodies have been similarly fashioned. Menstrual cycles have turned into a veritable organic production line in which outside sources inform us when we are ovulating, when we are pregnant, which method of contraceptive is best, and for hormone-regulating options, when we should be taking it each month.

This disassociation from our bodies may change due to the resurgence of the fertility awareness method (FAM) of contraception.

In comparison to the calendar method in which women guess their ovulation schedule based on previous menstrual cycles, FAM users relies on bodily indicators to determine when they’re ovulating. By tracking spikes and falls in body temperatures while at rest, or basal body temperature, noting increases in cervical mucus and the position of the cervix, women may rely on their own bodies to either become pregnant, or avoid it.

Although WebMD reports that 25 out of 100 women have unintended pregnancies while using FAM, it still provides a viable alternative to hormone birth control, which provides its own disadvantages: possible bone loss, blood clots and increased risk to Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

According to Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, 76 million women in developing countries experience unintended pregnancies annually while 19 million women resort to unsafe abortions.

As for those with access to contraception, there still remains the stigma and cost associated with purchasing them. With proper education, FAM could help women around the world control their lives more effectively, simply by understanding their bodies better.

– Emily Bajet

Sources: WebMD 1, WebMD 2, Mayo Clinic
Photo: Flickr

bangladesh_healthcare_improves
Despite widespread poverty and low governmental spending on health, Bangladesh – particularly, its healthcare system – has made significant improvements in life expectancy, vaccination rates and decreased infant mortality rates. In a special report by The Lancet, it has been shown that the remarkable strides made by the country are due to programs that focus on gender equality, family planning and immunizations.

Professor Mushtaque Chowdhury from BRAC, a Bangladeshi NGO, has said, “Over the past 40 years, Bangladesh has outperformed its Asian neighbors, convincingly defying the expert view that reducing poverty and increasing health resources are the key drivers of better population health. Since 1980 maternal mortality has dropped by 75%, infant mortality has more than halved since 1990, and life expectancy has increased to 68.3 years—surpassing neighboring India and Pakistan.”

Women have played a large role in these advancements. Door-to-door female health workers delivered family planning services over the last 40 years, resulting in a drop from 7 births per woman in 1971 to 2.3 in 2010. During that time, contraceptive use has increased from 10% to 62%. Education for girls was also noted as a key factor in these improvements.

The success achieved has been attributed to the involvement of NGOs, such as BRAC, in poor rural areas. “NGOs as a group have innovated to address issues of poverty, unemployment, health, education and the environment, and in many cases the government and NGOs have worked together to achieve a common goal,” The Lacent report continues to reveal.

While Bangladesh is succeeding in many areas, there are still many more that are not so positive such as child malnutrition. In the poorest families, 50% of children are still underweight. Even in the wealthiest quintile, 21% of children do not receive enough food.

“The Bangladesh health system has been shaped to address the first generation of poverty-linked infections, and nutritional and maternity-related diseases,” the Lancet goes on to say. “But given the epidemiological transition, the health system will have to be adjusted to grapple with chronic non-communicable diseases. For the fragile and evolving Bangladesh health system, the global attention on universal health coverage has not been translated into substantive action.”

David Smith

Sources: TheLancet, TheGuardian, The Conversation

Universal Access Project
The Universal Access Project’s mission is to achieve the fifth Millennium Development Goal to provide universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.

Today, roughly 222 million women lack the simple luxury in their lives of family planning services. To provide such services would not only help these women; it would improve overall global health, strengthen communities, decrease death rates of mothers and newborns and help alleviate global poverty.

The choice and the freedom to decide if and when to bear a child belong in the category of basic human rights. Providing easy access to contraceptives for women in third-world countries ensures that everyone may enjoy the same rights, and is predicted to reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies worldwide from 7.5 million to 22 million.

The Universal Access Project is chiefly focused on informing and mobilizing U.S. policy makers to support international reproductive health as a major element of U.S. foreign development assistance.

Although often overlooked in the shadow of seemingly more important and immediate issues, universal access to reproductive health care deserves attention. Studies conducted in Zambia have shown that one dollar invested in family planning saves four dollars in other health related issues over time; it also reduces newborn deaths by 44%.

Annually, about 350,000 women die from pregnancy and childbirth complications, making it the leading cause of death for women in developing countries. By providing them with family planning options, this number may be reduced by one-third – over 100,000 deaths prevented each year.

A website has been created in affiliation with the Universal Access Project – WhyWeCare.org – which compiles essays by 15 prominent leaders from different fields across the globe who support the initiative. Their stories are personal, touching and motivational, giving readers an accurate and related sense of urgency in regards to this project.

Although 2015 is a little more than a year away, founders of the project and members of the UN Foundation remain confident in its future success. Since the initiative’s start in 2008, U.S. funding for family planning has witnessed a 30% increase.

In the words of CNN news network founder and philanthropist Ted Turner (who is also a contributor to WhyWeCare.org), “Complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death of women in their reproductive years, killing an average of 1,000 women per day. That number is just plain unacceptable in this day and age.”

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: UN Foundation, K4Health, WhyWeCare.org
Photo: The Trenches

uganda_population
Today the nation of Uganda has a population of 27.7 million and this number continues to increase. According to the Population Research Bureau (PRB) the 27.7 million people will reach 130 million by 2050.  Researchers argue that this high rate of growth will surely keep the nation in financial difficulties. Ugandans already have limited resources and with this projected increase, the country will have to find a way to monitor the nation’s population explosion.

The current state of Uganda is largely due to the government’s lack of intervention and unavailable resources for family planning. PRB has stated that merely 20 percent of married women have available contraception. With such a low percentage it is no surprise that the average amount of children per woman is 6.9. This is an alarming amount considering the global average to be 2.7 children per woman. In fact, several have pointed this issue of high birth rates as being encouraged by Ugandan government officials since President Yoweri Museveni has stated that this population explosion is a “great resource” for Uganda.

This increasing population is also attributed to fertility levels which have escalated since 3 decades ago. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has been kept at a high in rural areas compared to urbanized areas. Seeing as Uganda’s Population Report 2013 indicates that 88% of Ugandans live in rural areas, the fertility level is basically high for nearly all Ugandans. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, there has been a markedly low infant mortality rate which coupled with the high fertility rate, has led to this extraordinary population growth.

Most Ugandans living in rural areas face extreme poverty, with poor infrastructure, limited supplies, lack of healthcare and famine in specific areas of the region. Several government officials are concerned whether the current demographic will impede economic growth. Some argue that the large population will begin a transformation, given how countries such as China and India have improved their economies after the pressure of rapid growth. The World Bank argued in a recent report that economic growth in Uganda would rise if fertility rates dropped and households learned to save or invest their money. What is certain is that today’s world population of 6.6 billion is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025 and Uganda will soon find itself having one of the highest populations among China and India.

Maybelline Martez

Sources: World Watch, UBOS, Daily Monitor