Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rising populations and overseas aid

Madam, – The fertility rate of women in Africa is much higher than in the rest of the world. This means that during their reproductive lives African women have far more children than women elsewhere. In Ethiopia, the fertility rate is about seven, in Ireland two.

Eamon Delaney (“Rising Populations are at the Core of Overseas Aid Issue”, Opinion, February, 16th) recognises the importance of the education of women in reducing family size, but the need for women to have access to modern methods of family planning if they want them is not stressed in his article.

Zerihun Retta, ambassador of Ethiopia (February 22nd), stresses that Ethiopia, a country singled out by Mr Delaney, is addressing the issues of education of girls and voluntary family planning.

Ethiopia is a country I love, with wonderful people, but the efforts at bringing contraception to those who want it must be improved. The fact that half the population live in remote areas makes this difficult, but on my visits to family planning clinics in Ethiopia I frequently found clinics with no supplies for those attending who desperately wanted them.

Irish Aid, however, can be proud of its record on family planning. Peter Power TD, Minister for State with responsibility for Irish Aid, has, like his predecessors, ensured that United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), has been funded by Irish Aid. The UNFPA is the UN organisation with responsibility for family planning. That organisation is best placed to help governments with family planning initiatives.

Unfortunately, George W Bush, when he was US president, cut all funding to UNFPA for some ideological reason. While it is not known how much harm was done by this policy, we can be relieved that President Barack Obama has restored funding to the UNFPA. – Yours, etc,


Burlington Road,

Dublin 4.

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