USAID's 'Population Stabilization' Efforts Work Too Well in Third-World Countries

It’s time to graduate some Third-World countries from American-sponsored population control.

“Population stabilization” in developing countries is an official purpose of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), though in keeping with the zeitgeist, efforts to achieve that goal are today called family planning programs.  In this time of massive deficits, American taxpayers pay over $400 million a year (conservatively estimated) to reduce the populations of Third World nations whose birthrates have already collapsed or are collapsing.  In fact, if USAID wants to promote long-term population stabilization in the Third World, it should be encouraging women to have more children rather than less.  Birthrates have been on a rapid downward trajectory in almost every country in the world.

Over 50 developing countries are on USAID’s family planning list.  These countries are in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.  Some of these countries have dangerously low birthrates and should not be targeted for contraception under any rational analysis.

Russia, not usually considered a developing country, is on the list.

Surely she can take care of herself when it comes to family planning?  Actually, she can’t, as her population commits suicide.  According to the United Nations Population Division, the Russian birthrate has dropped to 1.4 children per woman over her lifetime on average, disastrously lower than the minimum replacement rate of 2.1.  This comes as Russians emigrate to other parts of the world in substantial numbers.  Russia is already shrinking by over 500,000 people annually as the remaining population ages rapidly.  If Americans are to be taxed to assist Russia in her population efforts, a questionable proposition at best, it should be to promote childbearing instead of the opposite.

It is not only mighty former enemies to which USAID ships contraception by the boatload.  Tiny little Armenia, already the victim of a massive genocide by the Turks in the 20th Century, has a birthrate of 1.4 also, and is also losing people though it has only 3 million to begin with.  The UN conservatively projects that the proportion of retirees (people 65 or older) in the population will double to 24% by 2050.  Can Armenia afford that?  Why are we contributing to this problem?

Russia’s neighbor, Georgia, has the popular 1.4 birthrate and a shrinking population.  Bulgaria has a dismal 1.2 rate and a shrinking population.  Romania has a rate of 1.3 and a shrinking population.  The united nation of Serbia and Montenegro has a rate of 1.6 and a shrinking population.  Democratic Ukraine has a rate of 1.2 and a rapidly shrinking population.  Yet all these nations, with populations already contracting and with birthrates that will lead to more rapid contractions in the future, get family planning money from USAID.  Instead, the agency should be shipping badly-needed babies to these nations, whose social support systems are due to go bankrupt from lack of working-age people in the next few decades.  These countries’ fiscal futures make the United States’ problems with Social Security and Medicare seem very minor indeed.

Closer to home, the nations where USAID has family planning programs do have birthrates over replacement level, but the UN projects they soon won’t be in many of them.  Why should America encourage the suicidal trend?  Jamaica has a barely-adequate 2.3 birthrate now, but that will drop below replacement within 20 years at the most.  Bolivia’s, now at 3.5, will be below replacement in 30 years.  The Dominican Republic’s is at 2.6 now but will drop below 2.1 within 25 years.  And so on for some others, including El Salvador and Nicaragua.  In addition, many of these nations send out large numbers of emigrants each year, necessitating a birthrate higher than 2.1 to keep their populations stable and their age demographics affordable.

Some might say that regardless of the wisdom of our efforts elsewhere, promoting family planning in sub-Saharan Africa, with its incessant famines and other disasters, is a good idea.  That is not the case.  Those famines, massacres, civil wars, and the AIDS epidemic mean that high birthrates are necessary to keep those nations alive.  Even relatively affluent South Africa, on USAID’s list, has a birthrate of 2.6 but a net reproduction rate per woman of only 0.95.  That means that, on average, less than one daughter is produced per South African woman.  Despite having a birthrate well over 2.1, South Africa is on the path to extinction.  Other nations on the list, from Angola to Zimbabwe, may need birthrates as high as 6 children per woman or more in order to weather the crises that continually convulse the continent, particularly in a region where adult HIV infection rates are sometimes over 35%.  Despite its HIV infection rate of 25%, Zimbabwe is on USAID’s list.  The country has a birthrate of 3.2 and a net reproduction rate of only 1.05.

According to USAID itself, “The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to ravage the continent, although there are hopeful signs that prevention and treatment measures are beginning to slow its spread.  Prevalence rates remain high in all of southern Africa, reaching 25% in Zimbabwe and almost 40% in Swaziland and Botswana.  Of the estimated 34-46 million people infected by HIV worldwide, 25-28 million reside in sub-Saharan Africa.  Over 80% are in their productive years and two-thirds are female.”  Average life expectancy is on the decline, and USAID predicts it will fall below 35 within a decade in some nations, “significantly impacting prospects for economic growth and further straining household incomes.”  Depriving these nations of substantial portions of their future generations is not a good idea.

It’s true that maternal mortality has tended to fall in countries where population control has become widespread.  After all, if women have few children, they are less likely to die in childbirth.  But to borrow a phrase from environmentalists, that’s not a sustainable model.  Here in the First World, it’s almost unheard-of for a woman to die during childbirth or from complications from pregnancy.  The solution to maternal mortality in the Third World is not to export more condoms and injectable contraceptive hormones, but to export the hygienic standards, antibiotics, and technology that have almost rendered maternal death a thing of the past in the West.  This is especially true since so many of the contraceptives that the Firth World sends the Third can have terrible side effects.  Some, like Norplant, even used to be sold in the United States but are no longer because they are so dangerous, but into the bodies of Third World women they continue to go.

Another thing USAID should change: It, like other family planning organizations, measures its success by contraceptive prevalence rates.  The more women using contraception, the better.  This does not allow for the preferences of local people or their continued survival as peoples over the years.  This criterion of success should be abandoned.

To assist in population stabilization and deduct a little from the federal deficit, USAID should graduate nations from its family planning programs.  The damage has been done.


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