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Marketing the invasion: How US tax dollars undermine developing world families

The United States has spent more than $1 billion since 1990 to buy, test, store, ship and deliver contraceptive and abortifacient devices through a cluster of quasi-governmental organizations, an analysis of documents from the U.S. Agency for International Development revealed recently. The document review makes it clear that the U.S. taxpayer is the principal albeit often unwilling—source of funding for population control devices and programs worldwide.

The number of devices involved is staggering. Since 1990, US taxpayers have shipped more than 3.6 billion condoms, over 400 million cycles of birth control pills, more than 23 million IUDs, over l00 million vaginal foaming tablets, nearly a quarter of a million units of Norplant, and almost 4 million doses of Depo-Provera to poor, “underdeveloped countries” of the so-called Third World.1 Even so, the documents reveal that less than one-third of the money USAID spent on this effort actually went towards the purchase of abortifacient and other contraceptives. The rest of the money went to shipping, testing and marketing them.

Although these efforts are spearheaded by a group of organizations which call themselves “non-governmental,” a close scrutiny of their funding reveals that were it not for the regular and generous U.S. government subsidies they receive, they would be literally decimated, and might well entirely cease to exist. It would be more appropriate to call them quasi-governmental organizations, or QNGOs (pronounced Kwanggoes).

This new information, which is summarized in the inserts which appear in this issue, also documents a remarkable degree of specialization among the various QNGOs involved, with different organizations concentrating on different steps in the production, testing and delivery process or on the marketing of different products.

First, the procured items must be warehoused and then shipped overseas. Panalpina, an international shipping firm, currently provides USAID with such services. Under one contract (CCP-3057-C-00-2019-00), covering the period 22 June 1992 to 1 January 1997, USAID’s requirements for the “freight forwarding and warehousing of contraceptives worldwide” is being handled by Panalpina at a cost of $23,909,166.2

Previously, Matrix International Logistics, Inc., USAID’s old shipping contractor, was paid $15,638,60I by USAID for “freight forwarding/warehousing services required for shipment of contraceptives” under a contract (DPE-3018-C-00-9025-00) that ran from 21 September 1989 to 28 February 1993.3

Secondly, USAID must be sure that it is getting full value for all the money it spends on contraceptives. North Carolina-based Family Health International (FHI), has been the principal company utilized by USAID to “verif[y] that the quality of contraceptive products, such as condoms and pills, shipped by USAID to other countries meets strict standards.”4 This is particularly ironic since Stephen Mumford, one of FHI’s leading lights, has been associated with the unregulated sterilization of thousands of women with quinacrine hydrochloride, a strong acid.5

FHI tests “to assure the quality of latex condoms supplied by [US]AID, both through the surveillance of condom production and through quality testing of condoms in the field.” Accordingly, FHI makes “monthly surveillance visits” to USAID’s new condom supplier, Aladan, (as it did to Former supplier Ansell), to observe the condom manufacturing process in action.6 FHI also initiated “quality monitoring of the central warehouse” of USAID shipper Panalpina “to ensure product quality.” Overseas, “field stock evaluation[s]” were conducted in Honduras, as well as in Rwanda — at that time racked by famine and a brutal genocidal civil war — Tanzania and Zimbabwe, among others.7

Finally, contrary to all the propaganda regarding the allegedly great “unmet demand” experienced by hundreds of millions of Third World inhabitants for contraceptives, the actual demand in the developing world for these various devices and pills is really quite low. Indeed, the contraceptives actually must be pushed onto the targeted populations, and pushed very aggressively at that.

Accordingly, massive programs of “contraceptive social marketing” involving heavy advertising and promotion are considered to be necessary to motivate the populace to accept and use the great quantities of contraceptives that USAID and its accomplices think they need.

Population Services International (PSI), for instance, USAID’s number one condom pusher, uses massive advertising campaigns with which to literally flood the media. These campaigns involve, to use PSI’s own words, a constant “barrage of radio spots and films shown on television, in cinema halls and on [PSI’s] fleet of mobile film vans,” all extolling the virtues and benefits of condom usage.8 Radio soap operas and traveling puppet shows also are utilized to spread the word.

In Bangladesh, for instance, according to PSI, the “’audience turnout among the entertainment-starved rural population is enormous, averaging between 3,500 and 4,000 viewers per show. On some occasions, as many as 10,000 [people] have been known to turn out.”9 During the intermission break, the contraceptives promoter passes out “sample products such as oral contraceptive pills… or condoms.”

Most of the promotional and marketing costs, which far exceed the costs of the contraceptives themselves, are paid for by USAID or, more correctly, the American taxpayer.


1 In the Fall of 1989, USAID’s quarterly newsletter, USAID Highlights (Vol. 6, No. 4), boasted that, “Since 1968, USAID has purchased $567.7 million worth of contraceptives for distribution to 75 [underdeveloped]countries — 6.9 billion condoms, 1.6 billion cycles of oral contraceptives, 49.7 million intrauterine devices (IUDs), and 16.5 million vaginal foaming tablets. The numbers of contraceptives given in this article is for the period immediately following that, i.e. the overall combined total of condoms for the entire period would be 6.9 billion plus 3.6 billion or 10.5 billion, at least.

2 Contracts and Grants and Cooperative Agreements with Universities, Firms and Non-Profit Institutions Active During the Period of October 1, 1994 — September 30, 1995, Fiscal Year 1995, popularly known as The Yellow Book, 1995, USAID. Washington. D.C., 24.

3 The Yellow Book. 1993, 604.

4 FHI promotional brochure, undated.

5 David Morrison, “Burn, Baby Burn,” Population Research Institute Review, September/October 1996, 1.

6 “Contraceptive Technology and Family Planning Research,” Semiannual Report, 1 October 1992 – 31 March 1993, Family Health International, Submitted to Office of Population, Research Division, USAID 1,20.

7 Ibid., 21.

8 PSI Special Reports, Report No. 2/1993, 11.

9 PSI Profile: Social Marketing and Communications for Health, 2-sided flier on “Bringing Mass Media to Rural Populations through Mobile Video Vans,” November 1994.

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