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foreign aid as if people matter

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Aug 12, 2010

For years UN officials and Planned Parenthood activists have been promoting contraception and abortion in Third World countries, saying that these steps are necessary in order to cut down the unacceptably high rate of maternal mortality. With that propaganda campaign in mind, take another look at yesterday’s story about a campaign conducted by Caritas, the Catholic relief agency, to address maternal mortality in Bangladesh. It’s a remarkably simple program: promoting adequate nutrition. Yet it’s a struggle, because generations of women have absorbed inaccurate information. Women are dying needlessly because of superstitions about what they should and should not eat during pregnancy.

Sometimes the simplest, easiest, least expensive ways to help needy people are also the most effective. In desperately poor societies, families need clean water much more than they need contraceptive advice; more babies are saved by antibiotics than by condoms. So it’s revealing that so many foreign-aid programs—including, sad to say, those of the US federal government— make the family-planning drive their top priority, and the provision of clean water and antibiotics an afterthought.

If affluent nations plan to intervene in needy societies, and overthrow old cultural norms, it’s surely better to overthrow the myths, on the basis of real scientific information, than to overthrow the traditions that protect human life and dignity. 

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