Kristof: Poor Countries Need Comprehensive Family Planning Programs

    Poverty, conflict and instability in poor countries such as Central Africa is closely linked with fast population growth caused, most often than not, by the lack of birth control. This unavailability of birth control is a widespread but fixable challenge, Nicholas Kristof says in an opinion piece on The New York Times.

    “Making contraception available to all these women worldwide would cost less than $4 billion,” Kristof writes, referring to a study published by Guttmacher Institute.

    The total amount is approximately the same as what the U.S. is spending every two weeks for its military operations in Afghanistan, the columnist argues.

    But Kristof reminds that simply making contraceptives available to women would not address the root of the overpopulation problem.

    “What’s needed is a comprehensive approach to assisting men and women alike with family planning — not just a contraceptive dispensary,” Kristof says, noting that men and women in several poor countries are set on wanting more babies for a variety of reasons such as the expectation that some of their babies would die.

    Social and cultural issues also compound the problem, Kristof argues. He narrates that in some villages he visited during a recent trip across Africa, he met women who wanted more children because they feared what their communities would think of them.

    “If a woman doesn’t have a baby every two or three years, people will say she’s sterile,” Kristof quotes one of the women.

    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.