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Opinions: Family Planning; U.S. Food Aid

Comprehensive Family Planning Approach Needed, Not Just ‘Contraceptive Dispensary’

In his latest New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof writes about the “unavailability of birth control in many poor countries,” noting some experiences from a recent trip to Africa. “So the pill, 50 years old this month in the United States, has yet to reach parts of Africa. And condoms and other forms of birth control and AIDS prevention are still far too difficult to obtain in some areas,” Kristof writes before referencing the findings of a Guttmacher Institute report.

“Family planning has stalled since the 1980s. Republican administrations cut off all American financing for the United Nations Population Fund … The Obama administration has restored that financing, and it should make a priority of broader access to contraception (and to girls’ education, which may be the most effective contraceptive of all),” according to Kristof, who also acknowledges that “family planning is harder than it looks. Many impoverished men and women, especially those without education, want babies more than contraceptives. … Parents want many children partly because they expect some to die. So mosquito nets, vaccinations and other steps to reduce child mortality also help to create an environment where family planning is more readily accepted.”

“In short, what’s needed is a comprehensive approach to assisting men and women alike with family planning – not just a contraceptive dispensary,” he states (5/19).

Obama Administration Has Made A ‘Good Start’ On Food Aid

A Los Angeles Times editorial examines the U.S. food aid policy, specifically a requirement that “food aid be purchased at home and shipped by American companies to the countries in need.” The editorial investigates the potential outcomes of pilot programs “that allow aid groups to buy food elsewhere, rather than exclusively in the United States, or to distribute vouchers to the poor.” According to the editorial, the “amount of food aid funds authorized for local and regional purchases through the pilot programs is relatively small … Yet groups that distribute sustenance to the hungry, such as the U.N. World Food Program and the not-for-profit Mercy Corps, say it is a good beginning that gives them more flexibility to address a variety of problems.” The newspaper goes on to outline how different circumstances call for different responses, such as aid from the U.S., aid purchased within the region or vouchers.

The “Obama administration has made global hunger and food security a foreign policy priority, promising to attack the underlying factors that contribute to food crises, from population growth and deforestation to crop and food distribution problems.” The editorial concludes: “In the meantime, we concur with the food aid groups that the administration has made a good start. Faster food deliveries can save lives” (5/19). 

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.