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Population Budget Cuts Would "Undermine War on Terrorism"

March 29, 2007

WASHINGTON– President Bush's current effort to slash U.S. international assistance for population by 25 per cent "undermines his own declaration of war against terrorism," the president of the Population Institute asserted today.
 
Testifying before a House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, Lawrence Smith, Jr., who heads the Washington based nonprofit organization, noted that intelligence and security experts and agencies – including the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency – "have repeatedly warned that countries at the bottom of the development ladder, with high fertility rates and very large youth populations, are ripe for terrorist recruitment."
 
He observed that in nine of the 10 countries that the World Bank classifies as severely fragile in terms of "weak policies, institutions and governance," youths under 15 years of age comprise 40 per cent or more of the population.  This figure compares with 30 per cent for the total developing world population and only 17 per cent for the total industrialized world population.
 
Smith called for $845 million in U.S. overseas population programs administered by the U.S. government and a $55 million appropriation for the United Nations Population Fund in the 2007-2008 U.S. foreign aid budget.
 
His proposal is based on the fiscal year 1995 U.S. government appropriation for these programs, adjusting the respective amounts for inflation and for the increase in numbers of women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years of age) since then..
 
President Bush has called for reducing U.S. government population assistance by $116 million to $324.8 million and funding for UNFPA by $9 million to $25 million.
 
Smith observed that the countries listed by the World Bank as "fragile states" have one-third higher infant mortality, 12 years lower life expectancy and 20 percent higher maternal mortality.
 
"Rapid population growth is among the key factors contributing to the very existence of fragile states, their increasing numbers and relative lack of progress toward development," he maintained.
 
The 25 fragile states identified by the World Bank are home to some 500 million people, roughly half of whom live in extreme poverty, on less than one dollar a day.  Populations of 17 of these countries are projected to more than double by the middle of this century, Smith said.
 
Four of these states – Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Somalia – are expected to experience population increases near or above 200 per cent.
 
Women in seven of the 10 most fragile states, on average, give birth to four or more children during their reproductive lifetime.  "In four of these states – Afghanistan, Angola, Liberia and Somalia – women are averaging nearly seven children," Smith said.
 
He stressed that the United Nations reports that 137 million women in the world lack access to modern, medically approved contraceptives and another 64 million women use traditional methods of family planning "that are less reliable than modern methods."
 
"The need for family planning assistance definitely exists," Smith said.  "Moreover, the overwhelming majority of fragile states have, as a matter of official policy, declare their birth rates to be too high.
 
"What remains to be answered is the question of whether or not we have the political will to fulfill this unmet need."

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