Natural Family Planning Takes Hold in Africa

But Population Controllers Ignore NFP in Their Push for Contraceptives

It seemed like your typical family planning conference. It was sponsored by the US Agency for International

Development (USAID) and the World Health Organization’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research. It had the typical title: “Is Access Enough? Understanding and Addressing Unmet Need for Family Planning.” It even seemed to have the usual group of presenters ready with their cherry-picked findings to lobby for even more money to be spent on the contraception and sterilization of African women.

But, this time, in the small town of Nanyuki, Kenya, which sits right on the Equator, something different happened.

Three researchers—one from Geneva, one from Paris, and one from Burkina Faso—presented a paper which called into question several of the basic premises of the population controllers. They found that natural family planning methods not only work well, but that they are successfully used by large numbers of women. They also found that, because previous surveys completely ignored NFP, the so-called “unmet need for contraception” has been grossly overestimated.

The researchers came to their remarkable conclusions in the course of a study conducted in Ouagadougou, the capital city of the West-African country of Burkina Faso, and published in the journal Studies in Family Planning this June.

African women are quite capable of regulating their own fertility without the help of USAID. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

They took a novel approach: Instead of simply using the standard health questionnaire that ignores NFP, they decided that their survey would include questions to the women about their use of natural methods of family planning.

They found that surprisingly large numbers of women used NFP. Of the women surveyed, almost 25% reported that they used a natural method for family planning. That is to say, previous health surveys carried out by USAID and other population control-minded organizations had completely ignored the fact that one-quarter of the women were using some form of NFP.

Because of this error—which some would call deliberate—previous health surveys have been way off the mark. They record that only 35% of Burkina Faso women used artificial contraception and wrongly conclude from this that the other 65% have an “unmet need” to be put on the pill, injected with Depo Pro- vera, or sterilized.


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