Family planning help for women in Asia and Africa

Financial Times

Sir, In writing about the 7bn population benchmark we will reach next month (“Welcome, number seven billion”, Analysis, September 20), Clive Cookson correctly notes that it is difficult for women to obtain family planning services in the very countries that are expected to be ground zero for the billions more to come by the end of this century.

But it is easy to miss the human dimension at such great scales – the terrible burden of economic deprivation and even death that is the lot of women in many of the nations of Africa and Asia who cannot choose how many children to have and when to have them.

As Mr Cookson notes, high fertility rates are correlated with poverty and a lack of female education. If a woman’s only fate is to bear children and eke out a meagre living for her family, how can she hope for an education for her daughters, much less herself?

The United Nations has been meeting this week in New York. My colleagues and I with the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health were there, too. Among us are former presidents, prime ministers and ministers of health, and we made our case to the world’s leaders. I targeted African leaders in particular, as they must give higher priority to sexual and reproductive health for their people.