Unlimited contraceptives for Africa – Why not?

Posted By  August 10, 2012 
MOTHER SEEKS TREATMENT FOR MALNOURISHED CHILD IN NIGERIA CNS PHOTO: A mother seeks treatment for her malnourished child at at Our Lady of Apostles Hospital in Akwanga, Nigeria, Sept. 2, 2010. In his message that year for World Food Day, Pope Benedict XVI said persistent world hunger calls for international reforms that focus on long-term solutions as well as short-term emergency food aid. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

This letter was written by Obianuju Ekeocha, a 32-year-old Nigerian woman. For the past six years she has been living and working as a biomedical scientist in Canterbury, England. Most of her family and many friends still live in Nigeria.

She is active in her parish and says she is grateful to God for the graces she receives as she serves the Church.

She praises Catholic radio in America, specifically the programs of  Teresa Tomeo and Al Kresta, for keeping her “informed and inspired in all the things that ‘matter most,’” and for providing her with a Catholic world view. 

She said she was inspired to write an open letter to Melinda Gates after learning of Gates’ move to inject $4.6 billion worth of contraceptive drugs and devices into her homeland. 

“The worst part is that no one in Africa (meaning the average African woman or man) knows that Melinda is about to bequeath us her ‘legacy’ which can and most probably will stifle love and life in our continent,” she said.

She is hoping Melinda Gates will hear her “as the voice of the African woman.”

She wrote the following to Teresa Tomeo. (Teresa Tomeo can be heard locally at 9 a.m. weekdays on 1230 AM Emmanuel Radio. Her website is: www.teresatomeo.com)

An open letter to Melinda Gates

Growing up in a remote town in Africa, I have always known that a new life is welcomed with much mirth and joy. In fact we have a special “clarion” call (or song) in our village reserved for births and another special one for marriages.

The first day of every baby’s life is celebrated by the entire village with dancing (real dancing!) and clapping and singing – a sort of “Gloria in excelsis Deo.”

All I can say with certainty is that we, as a society, LOVE and welcome babies.

With all the challenges and difficulties of Africa, people complain and lament their problems openly. I have grown up in this environment and I have heard women (just as much as men) complain about all sorts of things. But I have NEVER heard a woman complain about her baby (born or unborn).

Even with substandard medical care in most places, women are valiant in pregnancy. And once the baby arrives, they gracefully and heroically rise into the maternal mode.

I trained and worked for almost five years in a medical setting in Africa, yet I never heard of the clinical term “postpartum depression” until I came to live in Europe. I never heard it because I never experienced or witnessed it, even with the relatively high birth rate around me. (I would estimate that I had at least one family member or close friend give birth every single month. So I saw at least 12 babies born in my life every year.)

Amidst all our African afflictions and difficulties, amidst all the socioeconomic and political instabilities, our babies are always a firm symbol of hope, a promise of life, a reason to strive for the legacy of a bright future.

So a few weeks ago I stumbled upon the plan and promise of Melinda Gates to implant the seeds of her “legacy” in 69 of the poorest countries in the world (most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa).

Her pledge is to collect pledges for almost $5 billion in order to ensure that the African woman is less fertile, less encumbered and, yes, she says, more “liberated.” With her incredible wealth she wants to replace the legacy of an African woman (which is her child with the legacy of “child-free sex.”

Many of the 69 targeted countries are Catholic countries with millions of Catholic women of child-bearing age.  These Catholic women have been rightly taught by the Church that the contraceptive drug and device is inherently divisive.

Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae vitae.” For these African women, in all humility, have heard, understood and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope. Funny how people with a much lower literacy level could clearly understand that which the average Vogue- and Cosmo-reading-high-class woman has refused to understand. I guess humility makes all the difference.

With most African women faithfully practicing and adhering to a faith (mainly Christian or in some cases Muslim), there is a high regard for sex in society, especially among the women. Sex is sacred and private.

The moment these huge amounts of contraceptive drugs and devices are injected into the roots of our society, they will undoubtedly start to erode and poison the moral sexual ethics that have been woven into our societal DNA by our faith, not unlike the erosion that befell the Western world after the 1930 Lambeth conference!  In one fell swoop and one “clean” slice, the faithful could be severed from their professed faith.

Both the frontline healthcare worker dispensing Melinda’s legacy gift and the women fettered and shackled by this gift, would be separated from their religious beliefs. They would be put in a precarious position to defy their faith – all for “safe sex.”

Even at a glance, anyone could see that the unlimited and easy availability of contraceptives in Africa would surely increase infidelity and sexual promiscuity as sex is presented by this multi-billion dollar project as a casual pleasure sport that can indeed come with no strings – or babies – attached. Think of the exponential spread of HIV and other STDs as men and women with abundant access to contraceptives take up multiple, concurrent sex partners.

And of course there are bound to be inconsistencies and failures in the use of these drugs and devices, so health complications could result; one of which is unintended abortion. Add also other health risks such as cancer, blood clots, etc. Where Europe and America have their well-oiled health care system, a woman in Africa with a contraception-induced blood clot does not have access to 911 or an ambulance or a paramedic. No, she dies.

And what about disposal of the medical waste? Despite advanced sewage disposal in the First-world countries, we hear that aquatic life there is still adversely affected by drugs in the system. In Africa, be rest assured that both in the biggest cities and smaller rural villages, sewage constitutes a real problem. So as $4.6 billion worth of drugs, IUDs and condoms get used, they will need safe disposal. Can someone please show us how and where will that be? On our farm lands where we get all our food? In our streams and rivers from whence comes our drinking water?

I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children. I see it buying us disease and untimely death. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.

Please Melinda, listen to the heart-felt cry of an African woman and mercifully channel your funds to pay for what we REALLY need.

We need:

• Good healthcare systems (especially prenatal, neonatal and pediatric care).

Needless to say that postpartum and neonatal deaths are alarmingly high in many Sub-Saharan African countries. This is due to the paucity of specialized medical personnel, equipment and systems. Women are not dying because they are having “too many” babies but because they are not getting even the most basic postpartum care. A childbirth or labor complication can very easily be fatal, for both mother and baby. To alleviate this problem new, well-equipped and well-staffed birthing centers with neonatal units need to be built in easily accessible parts of the poorest communities. And if Melinda Gates really insists on reducing population, she can have highly trained Natural Family Planning (NFP) instructors strategically placed in these women’s healthcare facilities.  At least then there would be a natural and wholistic approach.

• Food programs for young children.

This would serve a two-fold purpose if it is incorporated into free or highly subsidized nursery school programs. It would nourish and strengthen the growth of these children, who are so, so vulnerable to malnutrition, and it would also serve to encourage parents to bring their youngsters, ages 3 or 4, to nursery school. In so many parts of Africa, children miss out on nursery school education because it is expensive and considered a luxury reserved for the rich and middle class. As a result, the children miss the first few crucial years when basic math and reading are easily learned.  By the time they are considered “ready” for school, at age 7 or 8, they struggle academically. Many of them never quite catch up and so drop out after six or seven years. This is when a lot of young girls are married off as mid- to late-teenage wives who unfortunately would become the perfect recipient of the Melinda Gates comprehensive contraceptive care!

• Good higher education opportunities

Not just new school buildings or books, but carefully laid out educational programs that work – scholarships, internships at higher levels, etc. – are needed. Despite the problems and obstacles to primary and secondary education, a significant number of young girls make it into universities, polytechnics or colleges. The problem however is that, most of the schools and resources are substandard and outdated. As such, the quality of higher education is low and cannot compare to that of more privileged countries. Even though the teachers put in their very best and the students work hard, the system is inadequate and will always produce disadvantaged graduates who are not confident enough to stand with their counterparts who have studied in other parts of the world.

 • Chastity programs

Such programs in secondary schools, universities and churches would create a solid support system to form, inform and reassure our young girls and women that real love is that which is healthy and holy. Many African girls are no longer sure about moral sexual ethics thanks to the widespread influence of Western media, movies and magazines. More support should be given to programs that encourage abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. This approach would go a long way to combating the spread of HIV and other STDs through the continent. And it would certainly lead to happier marriages!

• Support for micro-business opportunities for women

 The average African women is incredibly happy, hard-working and resilient. Any support both economic and through training would most probably be used well and wisely.

 • Fortify already established NGOs that are aimed at protecting women from sex-trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage, child labor, domestic violence, sex crimes, etc.

 Many of these NGOs do not have much success because they are not well-funded. Though most of them have good intentions, they lack professional input from those such as psychologists, logisticians or medical personnel needed to tackle various problems.

$4.6 billion dollars can indeed be your legacy to Africa and other poor parts of the world. But let it be a legacy that leads life, love and laughter into the world in need

This entry was posted in Catholic Moral Teaching, Encyclicals, Pro Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Unlimited contraceptives for Africa – Why not?

  1. JessicaHof says:

    What a splendid letter. The lady only needs to look at our society to see the effects of Mrs. Gates’ policy – not a stirring example.

    Like

  2. toadspittle says:

    .
    There are so many questioable assumptions from the author that Toad just hasn’t the energy to tackle them, right now, anyway.
    Suffice for now to mention just this one: Contaceptives are not always reliable.. No, nor are seat-belts, so are we suggesting we don’t use them?
    But it’s enough to say that what the kindly Mrs. Gates is offering is just that – an offering.
    Nobody is suggesting it’s compulsory.
    At least, there’s no mention of that here.
    So nobody is obliged to accept it.
    Those who choose to practice contaception can do so, thanks to Mrs. G.
    Those who don’t want to, needn’t.
    Simples.

    ..And then…
    “Funny how people with a much lower literacy level could clearly understand that which the average Vogue- and Cosmo-reading-high-class woman has refused to understand.”
    What? No “Hello!” magazine?
    Funny how the writer, Obinuju, assumes a higher level of literacy is required to read these nunbskull offerings.

    Her idea of high class women – and Toad’s – are simplesy aeons apart. It would seem.

    Like

  3. kathleen says:

    Yes Jessica, I agree; what a truly splendid letter by Obianuju Ekeocha! Will Melinda Gates read it though? And if she does, will it make any difference to her plan to bequeath Africa “her ‘legacy’ which can and most probably will stifle love and life in our continent,” ? I sincerely hope so.
    Obianuju is a clever girl; she gives Melinda Gates very good alternative ways of spending her billions of dollars if Gates truly and honestly wants to help African women and children to have a better, healthier and safer future. If she refuses to take heed, it will sadly prove that her “contraceptive mentality” is prevalent, and to reduce the birth rate is her prime target. Chastity or not “cuts no ice” (as Toad would say) with Melinda Gates!

    All I can say with certainty is that we, as a society, LOVE and welcome babies”, says Obianuju. What a wonderful statement! If only we could boast the same attitude in our western countries! OK, it’s not as though most people here don’t think babies are cute and cuddly too, but all too often when a woman falls pregnant unexpectedly, it is considered a disaster, or at least a nuisance. What a lot we can learn from these joyful African women!

    Like

  4. Ah, yes but, Kathleen and Jessica, Melinda obviously, like our President, doesn’t want these poor women “to be punished with a baby”. What hogwash! Only effete western societies, more concerned with material gains than a happy life life could even come up with, let alone maintain, such beliefs.

    Like

  5. toadspittle says:

    .

    After some consideration, Toad has totally changed his mind.
    He now agrees with Ms. Obianuju Ekeocha, that Melinda Gates should not squander her cash on an absurdly unpopular cause like contraception in Africa.
    God knows, the last thing we want to do is to “stifle life and love on our continent,” there’s precious little enough of it in evidence, right now.

    The natives, it seems, don’t want contraception, and surely they should know best?
    If they want condoms, let them buy their own.
    If they want babies, then they should have them – by the bucketful if they like.
    What becomes of them thereafter is their problem.

    The $atanists can always eat them. Laura will happily confirm this.

    Another open letter to Melinda, this time from Toad:

    “Dear Mrs. Bates,
    please consider shifting all your spare billions to Europe, where I promise I will use it to set up a lot of shelters for abandoned dogs, largely Greyhounds, but also cats and ferrets.

    No ungrateful and boring humans involved, you will be pleased to hear, and all animals will be neutered.
    Your money will be far more appreciated by your new dumb friends.

    Lots of luck with Microsoft Facebook, or whatever,
    …and lots of love from Toad, who’s the dumbest friend of all.

    (Nice if Melinda receives this absurd message, eh? Surely we will all agree on that?)

    Like

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