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Groups Respond to Lack of Family Planning Funding in Canadian Foreign Aid Initiative

A report compiled by the US-based Guttmacher Institute and endorsed by a coalition of Canadian groups stated that the funding of family planning, which has been left out of Canada’s foreign aid plan, would save the lives of millions of women and children in developing nations. According to the Canadian Press, the United Nations Population Fund and a leading international health organization released the report soon after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to make maternal and child health care a priority in Canada’s coming health initiative. Currently, this initiative will not include family planning funds.

At a Foreign Affairs committee meeting on March 16, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said that Canada’s foreign aid plan “[would] not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning,” reported The Globe and Mail. There was speculation that government leaders were avoiding the issue of family planning and abortion in an effort to appease those across the political spectrum. Moreover, the Canadian International Development Agency stopped funding the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in December, and a request for renewal of its $6 million yearly grant has reportedly been ignored, said The Globe and Mail earlier this month.

The Guttmacher Institute’s report stated that “the direct health benefits of meeting the need for both family planning and maternal and newborn health services would be dramatic. Unintended pregnancies would drop by more than two thirds, from 75 million in 2008 to 22 million per year. 70 percent of maternal deaths would be averted – a decline from 550,000 to 160,000. Forty-four percent of newborn deaths would be averted – a decline from 3.5 million to 1.9 million,” according to an IPPF press release.

The IPPF’s Director-General Dr. Gill Greer said in the press release, “The evidence is indisputable: family planning saves lives. Too many women and girls die in pregnancy and childbirth because they had no access to good health services including family planning. Family planning is crucial to achieving better maternal and child health. There is already global consensus that the ability to plan if, and when to become pregnant, must be central to efforts to improve maternal, newborn and child health. No country has made significant inroads to improving maternal, newborn and child health without also ensuring widespread access to family planning.”

Sources:

Canadian Press 3/26/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/18/10; International Planned Parenthood Foundation Press Release 3/23/10

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