'Worsening Plight of the Hungry'

April 24, 1985

I agree with Kostmayer that the United States should not cut foreign aid funds for family planning in developing countries. I take exception, however, with his analysis that overpopulation is the cause of malnutrition, hunger and famine.

The famine in Africa is the result of crop failures due to a multi-year drought--severe lack of rainfall coupled with nonexistent irrigation systems to bring water to farmlands.

Malnutrition, hunger and high infant mortality rates are the cause of overpopulation. In developing countries, couples have children for practical reasons: to help produce food and to assure that there will be someone to care for the couple in their later aging years. In many African countries, 20% of all children die before their first birthday due to the vicious cycle of malnutrition and disease.

In order to break this vicious cycle that leads to overpopulation, it is important to concentrate on implementing effective programs that have been proven to decrease infant mortality:

--Immunizing all children against childhood diseases (this can save 5 million childrens' lives each year).

--Making available oral rehydration therapy to stop death from dehydration following bouts of diarrhea (this can save an additional 5 million children each year).

Preventive treatment for these two most frequent causes of death afflicting malnourished children can cost only $20 per child. Child deaths are estimated to be 35,000 to 40,000 per day! These two measures alone could reduce this gruesome reality by as much as 50%, according to UNICEF.

Only when couples have the assurance that their children have a chance to survive into adulthood will the couple be ready to look into some form of family planning. It is a proven fact that in countries where infant mortality has been reduced, the birthrate has also shown a sharp decline.


Lake Forest

Los Angeles Times Articles