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September 27, 2018 (C-Fam) – Last week the Tanzanian government suspended family planning advertisements funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) while the program is reviewed for its population control motives.

“The ministry intends to revise the contents of all your ongoing radio and TV spots for family planning, thus I request you to stop with immediate effect airing and publishing any family planning contents in any media channels until further notice,” said the September 19 letter issued by the Tanzanian Minister of gender and health.

Tanzania sent the suspension letter to FHI360, a U.S.-based group that receives millions in U.S. funding contracts to increase contraception usage in African countries. This despite African women self-reporting near saturation in access to contraception. In 2017, FHI360 reported receiving over $700 million from the U.S. government – 85% of their budget for family planning, HIV and other health program areas. The head of FHI360 was formerly employed by USAID.

Tanzanian president John Magufuli, a proponent of large families encouraged Tanzanians to disregard the pressure coming from foreigners and to keep reproducing promising that the government will improve healthcare delivery, specifically maternal health with the building of 67 new hospitals.

In a public appearance two weeks before the suspension, President Magufuli questioned the merits of family planning and expressed concern over low birth rates experienced by many countries. “I have traveled to Europe and elsewhere and have seen the harmful effects of birth control. Some countries are now facing declining population growth. They are short on manpower,” said Magufuli.

The Tanzanian president made the remarks in front of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative. UNFPA is known for its involvement in coercive family planning programs which is why the Trump administration has ceased funding for the past 2 years.

Like its neighboring countries, Tanzania has a relatively high fertility rate: 5.4 children per woman.  Though when comparing the actual and desired fertility rates of Tanzania with the countries bordering it, the gap between these two numbers is smallest in Tanzania, suggesting their existing family planning practices are relatively effective.

“While family planning advocates claim a quarter of married women in Tanzania have an 'unmet need' for family planning, the Guttmacher Institute reports that only 4% of that 'need' is attributable to lack of access, and 1% due to lack of knowledge,” Dr. Rebecca Oas told the Friday Fax.  Oas, a scientist who has done extensive research on “unmet need,” said these figures “indicate the advertising campaigns being restricted are more about promoting a small family norm than raising awareness of or access to contraceptives.”

Obianuju Ekeocha, president of Culture of Life Africa, told the Friday Fax she is heartened an African leader is asking important questions about western donor countries “flooding Africa with artificial contraception under the guise of poverty eradication.” Ekeocha said questions should be asked about harmful hormonal contraceptives coming through development assistance programs, and the funding of abortion organizations that are the primary providers. “Africa should not become the social experiment of wealthy western ideologues,” she said.

The U.S. is the single largest donor of international family planning annually appropriating $600 million through USAID with millions more directed through humanitarian assistance. President Trump and Congressional Republicans have tried to reduce the amount of family planning in the annual budgets without success because of opposition from Democrats and abortion rights Republican senators.

Published with permission from C-Fam.