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Reviewing DIFD's contribution to international health, Cindy Carlson1 (JRSM 2007;100:34-37) points out that DIFD's draft priority areas include ‘accelerated efforts against the off track MDGs.’ In January 2007—after the Carlson article was written—Parliament's All Party Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health launched a landmark report titled Return of the Population Growth Factor: Its Impact on the Millennium Development Goals.2 Based on extensive hearings with experts and agencies working in the field, the inquiry chairman Richard Ottaway MP concludes, ‘The evidence is overwhelming: the MDGs are difficult or impossible to achieve with the current levels of population growth in the least developed countries and regions.’ The report recommends increased investment in international family planning, and also removal of the wide range of barriers that all too often separate individuals from the information and services they need in order to decide when to have a child.3
The written evidence from DIFD states that ‘Sustained high fertility rates and rapid population growth could for some countries pose obstacles to poverty reduction as serious as that from HIV and AIDS.’ It documents the key role that access to family planning makes in reducing infant and maternal mortality, and points out that even in the field of HIV/AIDS, ‘family planning offers an effective way of reducing the number of cases of vertical transmission.’4
Steven Sinding, Director General of the IPPF, told the hearings that since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development there has been ‘a taboo about population.’ The report puts pay to this taboo. All the witnesses, like Christine McCafferty MP, Chair of the All Party Group, framed family planning in a ‘human rights perspective.’ It is to be hoped that Return of the Population Growth Factor will chart a new course for DIFD, but also for all international donors.
Competing interests MP was an expert witness to the hearings held by the All Party Parliamentary Group of Population, Development and Reproductive Health.