NGOs cut family planning services in Africa amid Trump anti abortion rule
File: Project Director for East Africa, Nelson Keyonzo during a family planning workshop (Michuzi)
London, May 24, 2018 (AltAfrika)-The International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International, MSI, two of the biggest Non Governmental Organisations, NGOs offering family planning services across African continent are scaling back services amidst biting cash crunch occasioned by their refusal to comply with anti abortion policy of President Donald Trump of US.
US government has banned funding to any foreign NGOs carrying out or offering advice on abortions anywhere. The goal is to please Christian conservatives who strongly oppose abortion and are a major part of Trump’s political base.
MSI and the International Planned Parenthood Federation are among only four to reject the conditions of the order. They offer abortion services, in accordance with local rules, and say it is a last resort in preventing unwanted or unsafe births
MSI say the cuts forced it to ax a voucher program in Madagascar and 22 out of 62 outreach teams there. In Uganda, 17 out of 35 teams are gone. And in Zimbabwe, where MSI has an extensive presence, it has shut down half of the 1200 teams it had going from village to village.
IPPF has shut 22 programmes in sub-Saharan Africa and has others closing this month in Togo, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast. This is because it has lost USAID funding, Caroline Kwamboka, IPPF’s senior advocacy manager for Africa said
The USAID money for the MS Ladies in northern Burkina was due to run out in April but UK development agency, UK Aid, stepped in to keep it afloat until June.
Coulibaly is hoping other donors will fill the gap to keep the project open. They include the Hewlett-Foundation, the Waterloo Foundation, the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Gates Foundation.
IPPF operations are not under threat in Burkina Faso as other donors finance its projects there.
Attitudes toward contraception in Burkina Faso are mixed. Some religious leaders say it is immoral and abortion is illegal except for cases of rape or where the mother or baby is at risk.
But as in other West African countries government campaigns to persuade them to space births out for the sake of maternal health have been effective in recent years.
In 2011, West African governments signed up to the Ouagadougou Partnership to try to reach an extra 2 million contraceptive users by 2020.
SCRAMBLING FOR FUNDS
With their funding under threat, NGOs and others are looking for ways to keep their coffers full.
In February Trump singled out the UNFPA, the single largest provider of free contraception in Africa, for a funding ban, on grounds of complicity in forced abortions in China. The UN agency denies this.
“The American people do not want to be complicit in killing unborn children in the United States, in Africa or anywhere else,” said Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey told Reuters by phone.
In 2015 the agency received $32 million (about R401 million) in US funding. But other country donors were so alarmed by Trump’s cut that they covered the shortfall and increased the budget in 2017, said UNFPA’s West and Central Africa director Mabingue Ngom.
“There was a positive impact from the (US) cuts to our funding,” he said. “It ended up bringing us more resources.”
NGOs rely on a more varied mix of funding so closing the gap is harder.
An official for the U.S. State Department, which is responsible for USAID, said if an NGO loses its funding, it tries to help shift operations to other NGOS.
“When an NGO has declined to agree to the policy, affected departments and agencies work to transition the activities …. to other partners,” the official said.
MSI and IPPF are taking steps to shift away from US funds.
“We made a conscious decision to ensure that more (recipient) countries had more funders. This meant … designing our proposals to include more country profiles that matched our donors’ priorities,” MSI spokesman Will Haris said.
The fluctuating funding has also been a wake up call for African leaders who promised in 2015 to boost healthcare to 15 percent of government spending. Most are behind target.
“Commitments have been made, but the money has not been forthcoming,” IPPF’s Kwamboka said. “This reliance on aid from other countries…it cannot go on.
Additional report from Reuters