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Overseas aid – Programme for population planning

Parliamentary Question No. 95

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Irish Aid currently has a programme for population planning in aid recipient countries; if so, where; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Anthony Lawlor.

* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 10th July, 2012.

Ref No: 33544/12

REPLY (Minister of State, Mr Joe Costello, T.D.)

As we know from our own history, population growth is an enormously complex, multi-dimensional issue. The challenges posed by a rapidly expanding world population need to be addressed by tackling the root causes of that expansion. In poor countries, extreme poverty, food insecurity, inequality, high death rates and high birth rates are all linked in a vicious cycle. Irish Aid, Ireland’s official development aid programme, is focused on dealing with these challenges and breaking that cycle.

Investing in health, particularly sexual and reproductive health, and in education for women and girls is fundamental. Women and girls who have at least completed primary school have fewer children. Women who can access information on family planning options and safe, effective and affordable contraception use it to plan their family size in a way that maximises their own potential and that of their children. Providing women with access to reproductive health care also has a transformative effect on women’s vulnerability to poverty, hunger and economic and social discrimination.

The Government’s aid programme, administered by Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, aims to address the root causes of poverty. Rapid population growth alone is not the cause of poverty. The situation is more complex: poverty actually drives high population growth. Irish Aid responds to this challenge through our work in our priority countries and through our engagement with the multilateral system. In 2010, for instance, through Irish Aid, the Government provided €145 million in support to the health and education sectors in our nine partner countries and through global level partnerships. Since 2006, we have provided almost €30 million to the United Nations Population Fund ( UNFPA) to support better reproductive health services for women in the developing world.

In 2011, as a member of UNFPA’s Executive Board, Ireland worked to develop strategies and programmes that reach the poorest and most vulnerable women and allow them to make real choices over their lives. We have recently joined the international Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health which promotes access to family planning.

Ireland’s aid programme is strongly focused on sub-Saharan Africa, where the challenge of population growth is acute. In Ethiopia, our support for the Health Extension Programme has seen impressive growth in the uptake of contraception in rural areas. In both Tanzania and Mozambique, Irish support for the health sector has contributed to better delivery of district level reproductive health care. In Lesotho, in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, we have contributed to improved access to family planning by women living in very remote mountain villages.

The international community has made real progress on many important development goals in the last ten years. School enrolment and child health have improved, child deaths have been reduced and access to clean water and sanitation has been expanded. With just three years remaining for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals we are committed to helping repeat this level of progress in the area of reproductive health.