Family planning

‘Use your £11bn climate fund to pay for family planning,’ says UK | Global Development

The UK government has been urged to open its £11bn pot of climate funding to contraception as research from low-income countries shows a link between poor access to reproductive health services and environmental damage.

In a letter to Alok Sharma, president of the UN climate conference Cop26, an alliance of more than 60 NGOs called for funding eligibility rules to be changed to allow projects affected by the removal of barriers to reproductive health care and girls’ education to access climate funds. .

Bethan Cobley, director of MSI Reproductive Choices, one of the organizers of the letter, said, “Billions are now being allocated to climate finance, adaptation and resilience. We hear loud and clear from the communities, women and our clients who are most affected by the climate crisis that what they really want is access to reproductive health care, so they can choose when or if they have children.

Campaigners say the government could bring about the change in how funds are spent in time for November’s Cop26 in Glasgow. Developing countries where food, health care and water supplies are already scarce are the most affected by climate change. Low-income countries have contributed much less to the climate crisis than richer countries.

“Given recent cuts to the aid budget and the urgency of the climate crisis, we need innovative ways to integrate development and climate programming,” says the letter, sent earlier this summer.

David Johnson, chief executive of the Margaret Pyke Trust, said people in developing countries know what they need.

“From increased risk of unintended pregnancy to dropping out of school, the communities we work with tell us that they are already seeing how climate change is affecting them and seeing the connections between their health and the health of their local environment,” did he declare. .

“It is essential that the UK government’s climate adaptation funding takes this into account. Cop26 is an opportunity to right this wrong.

Children in Kenya’s Rift Valley, where illegal settlements, logging and charcoal burning are hurting the country’s economy and disrupting energy, tourism, agriculture and food supplies water. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Earlier this year, a United Nations environment program reported that investing in “community-based family planning” would help tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises and was crucial if women were to take on leadership roles as communities adapted.

Professor Susannah Mayhew, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the link, although “not intuitive” to people in the West, was obvious to those in affected communities, where “the thing you have need to support [sustainable living] is the ability to control one’s own fertility as an individual woman.

“People who are affected by climate change and who have very limited access to quality health services understand the connections much better than we do,” she said.

It was “absolutely essential” that the government allowed climate finance to be earmarked for reproductive health programs, she added.

Mayhew, who is part of a team of researchers on a Margaret Pyke Trust Project in Uganda’s Rukiga district, said: “What women seem to want is to have better-spaced and healthier children so that they can be economically active and plan a good quality future for their children who do not lead to increasing pressures on agricultural land and poor livelihood practices, which are accompanied by a lack of education, so that they can live locally more sustainably with less pressure on the land.

Women receive counselling, family planning counseling and contraceptives at a Marie Stopes International mobile clinic in Rwibaale, Uganda.
Women receive counselling, family planning counseling and contraceptives at an MSI Reproductive Choices mobile clinic in Rwibaale, Uganda. Photograph: Jennifer Huxta/The Guardian

Richard Muhumuza, another of the researchers in the programme, which is partly funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said people he spoke to in Rukiga were clear about what low access to family planning meant for their lives and environment. Uganda’s south-west wetlands are vital for both humans and the national bird – the endangered gray crowned crane – but are under intense pressure from unpredictable weather and unsustainable agricultural practices.

“‘Ignorance’ and ‘family planning’ were the reasons for environmental degradation, Rukiga residents told us,” said Muhumuza, from the Uganda Research Unit. “They linked the support and education that women get from accessing family planning services and having fewer children, to addressing the effects of climate change.”

A farmer quoted in the study’s preliminary findings said, “I thank those who brought family planning. I thank them very much because if they hadn’t presented it, we would have delivered and we would have gotten tired.

“We are already tired of the children we have and [then] you find out that you are carrying another pregnancy to increase the number.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: ‘The UK is a world leader in both gender equality and the fight against climate change. It is clear that supporting women, especially through family planning and girls’ education, helps communities adapt and be more resilient to climate change. That’s why we’re making sure our international climate finance is gender-responsive, and we’re using our COP26 presidency to call on others to do the same.

The British government claims to have allocated £11.6 billion for international climate finance over the next five years. Campaigners say much of that comes from the shrinking foreign aid budget. An Oxfam spokesperson compared it to “your usher leaving a bouquet of flowers”.

According to Guttmacher Institutea pro-choice research organization in the US, meeting the global unmet need for contraception would cost around $770m (£565m) a year, or $548m more than current costs.