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Family planning is key in the fight against famine

August 1, 2011 11:39 AM

• [Jul 11] Baroness Jenny Tonge and Richard Ottaway MP write* to the Guardian: YOUR editorial (7 July) was quite right to point out that disaster relief is an essential response to humanitarian crises, and that prevention of and preparation for future disasters is crucially important. However, unless we address population growth through reproductive health, the scale of relief required in the future will only increase.

Food supplies and future agricultural investment will be useless unless we also fund family planning and reproductive health programmes to relieve the pressure of ever-growing populations.

Ten years after the last drought, Ethiopia is facing another food crisis, due to drought. Other areas are similarly affected and the four countries currently threatened with famine - Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda - have seen their populations grow from 41 million in 1960 to 167 million. This huge growth in population cancels out any improvements in food production.

Women in the region want to delay or avoid further pregnancies, but do not have access to contraception. What funding there was has stalled in recent years. It is crucial that these women's contraceptive needs are met, together with the food aid, otherwise in 10 or 15 years' time, those children we save now will be bringing their children to feeding centres in a desperate attempt to save their lives.

* Joint chairs, All-party group on population, development and reproductive health

• Guardian Letters Jul 11