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World Bank: Email Trail and Draft Strategy Show Family Planning Removed from Bank's Africa Plans

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is releasing an email obtained from World Bank sources showing that Managing Director (MD) Juan José Daboub instructed a team of Bank specialists to delete all references to family planning from the proposed Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for Madagascar. Daboub is the top official in charge of setting African lending policy and health sector strategy. The email is dated March 8, 2007. GAP has also obtained a draft from Daboub’s office of the pending Health, Nutrition, and Population Strategy (HNP), which mentions family planning only once. In contrast, the previous HNP (1997), which set priorities in this topic area for CASs, identifies lack of access to family planning services as a primary health challenge. This comes in direct contradiction to statements made by Bank President Paul Wolfowitz at a press conference earlier today.

The email showing the directive to remove family planning can be found on GAP’s Web site here: http://www.whistleblower.org/doc/2007/The%20Email.pdf

The draft HNP Strategy with a single reference to family planning, which appears only to cite a previous activity, can be found here: http://www.whistleblower.org/doc/2007/the%20DraftStrategy.pdf

CASs are long-term plans that lay out World Bank lending priorities for a specific country. All countries with regular lending programs have one. Reviewing the documents, Bea Edwards, GAP International Program Director said, “This effort to deprive impoverished women and men in poor countries of the freedom to control their family size, while condemning women to unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, is unthinkable in a public health program prepared by a development institution.”

The email trail shows one email (the bottom [first] one) that includes the line:

By the way, one of the requests received from the MD [Daboub] was to take out all references to family planning. We did that. However, this is a potential problem for us as the upcoming Health SWAP includes family planning measures in response to the Government’s strong request for help in this area…..

The email was sent from one Lilia Burunciuc, the Country Program Coordinator, who reports on the Madagascar CAS through the Africa Region Vice President to MD Juan José Daboub. As in many other African countries, condoms provided by family planning services are crucial to combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in Madagascar. Such a deletion would, in any CAS, be an inappropriate intervention. But in Madagascar, where the public health service is housed in the Ministry of Health and Family Planning, it is especially heavy-handed and cruel.

Subsequently, Daboub’s office sent a draft HNP Strategy to the Bank Committee on Development Effectiveness for discussion at a March 14 meeting. As a parallel of what occurred with the Madagascar CAS, the proposed strategy virtually omits all mention of family planning. This deletion marks a dramatic departure from the priorities set out in the existing HNP Strategy, which focuses heavily on family planning and cites high fertility as one of four primary health challenges.

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