The Dutch government is giving an additional €4 million to She Decides. She Decides is the international initiative launched by development minister Lilianne Ploumen to safeguard access to family planning for millions of women in developing countries in the face of the US government’s Global Gag Rule. This policy cancels US funding for aid organisations if their services include access to or information about safe abortions. That will ‘in fact not reduce the number of abortions, but rather drive more girls into the dirty hands of back street abortionists,’ Ms Ploumen said, often with horrific consequences.
The minister was keynote speaker at the British newspaper The Guardian’s annual side event to the UN General Assembly in New York. So far, 58 countries have expressed support for She Decides, as have several dozen private organisations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they have raised €271m ($305m) to maintain services like contraceptives, sex education, safe abortion and maternity care to the greatest possible extent. The Netherlands has contributed €29m. In various countries there have been civic initiatives in support of She Decides, many of which have also contributed funds.
The additional €4m will be used specifically to fund family planning programmes in Mozambique. This follows on the minister’s suspension of bilateral aid to Mozambique because the government in Maputo is not cooperating fully with an international investigation into possibly fraudulent loans. ‘We’re giving them a double message,’ the minister said. ‘First, fraud cannot be tolerated. Second, we won’t let women pay the price. We’ll continue supporting women through other channels.’
Ms Ploumen also spoke in New York about the growing number of people who are threatened by famine or malnutrition – currently no fewer than 815 million people worldwide. The situation is most acute in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. ‘Famine is imminent for at least 20 million people in these countries,’ she said. ‘Because of a $1 billion funding shortage, aid efforts and rations are being cut back. So something needs to be done.’
For this reason, the Netherlands will earmark €5m for relief via the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP). As the development minister explained, ‘The WFP is a vital link in the fight against famine. It delivers food to people who are going hungry in regions that are often dangerous and inaccessible. It also plays a key role in supplying other aid organisations.’ The Netherlands’ total contribution to the WFP this year is €50m.