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Philippines Not Prepared for Contraception Phase-out

A US-sponsored birth control program that provides free birth control pills, condoms, and injectibles to the Philippines will end in 2008, causing concern among family planning advocates. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is slowly phasing out the donation program, which has provided the bulk of free contraceptives in the Philippines over the last 30 years. Experts fear that the phase-out will lead to higher rates of abortion, more maternal deaths, and rapid population growth, the International Herald Tribune reports.

Describing the Philippines as “excessively dependent on donor support” for contraceptives, USAID says that it is promoting “contraceptive self-reliance” in the Philippines by asking local government and private businesses to step up to the challenge of providing adequate family planning services. However, many local governments lack the necessary funds to subsidize contraceptives for the poor, reports Business World.

Even with the US program, less than half of women in the Philippines who want to use contraceptives have access to them, Rena Dona, a UN Population Fund official told IHT. An estimated 473,000 abortions and 1.4 million unplanned pregnancies occur in the Philippines annually, IHT reports.

With a population of 87 million and a growth rate of 2.1 percent, the Philippines is one of Southeast Asia’s most populous countries, according to the Asian Development Bank. Experts say the population rate could soar if President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declines to provide funding for artificial contraception when USAID funding runs out, Reuters reports. Macapagal, a devout Catholic reallocated $888,000 from a contraceptive programs fund to a NGO called “Couples for Christ” in 2003 and has consistently blocked HIV-prevention efforts, according to Human Rights Watch.

Sources:

Asian Development Bank (2007); International Herald Tribune 8/14/07; US Agency for International Development (2000); Business World 8/2/07; Human Rights Watch, May 2004; Reuters 7/11/07

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