6 August 2018

Swaziland: U.S. Halts Funding to Swaziland NGO As Anti-Abortion Policy Bites

The Family Life Association of Swaziland / Ewsatini has lost a quarter of its total funding after the United States tightened up its policy against abortion.

A total of 56 jobs have been lost.

The halt in US funding worth the equivalent of E10.7 million is a direct result of an executive order signed by US President Donald Trump on his first full day in office. He reinstated and extended what is known as the Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule which had first been put in place in 1984.

Under the revised rule organisations receiving aid from the United States have to show they do not use their own non-United States' funds to provide abortion services, counsel patients about the option of abortions, refer them for abortion or advocate for the liberalisation of abortion law.

Abortion is not legal in Swaziland, unless ordered by the courts.

FLAS was opened in 1979. For almost the first two decades of operations its strategic focus was contraception and family planning services. On its website FLAS explains, 'However, since 1999, FLAS has undergone a process of transformation that has seen its focus shift from family planning to comprehensive and holistic sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV services and information. This was largely prompted by the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994. Given that more than half of Swaziland's population is younger than 20 years of age, FLAS's target population is now youths aged 10 to 24 years.

'For over a decade FLAS's core services have included counselling and treatment for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues, family planning including vasectomy and tubal ligations, male circumcision, pre- and post-natal care, immunisations and screenings including for cervical cancer, breast cancer and pregnancy tests.'

Maxwell Dlamini, FLAS Resource Mobilisation and Communications Office, told the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland (5 August 2018) its E10.7 million funding from the United States had been halted and 56 jobs (26 staff and 30 community workers) were lost as a result. The Associated Press news agency had previously reported this was about one-quarter of FLAS's total funding.

Dlamini told the Observer FLAS recognised that unsafe abortion was a major killer of women in Swaziland. FLAS came across several women each day with unwanted pregnancies, he said.

The Observer reported, 'He added that its recognition as a health problem was essential as well as designing preventive measures for it.'

He said FLAS worked within the law in Swaziland.

Coordinating Assembly of Non- Governmental Organisations (CANGO) Communications Officer Nkosingiphile Myeni said many non-governmental organisations providing sexual and reproductive health services believed that the US policy did not reduce abortions but increased more unsafe and unhealthy ones, leading to more women's deaths which could be averted.

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