Features

A weaning year?

International | World Relief wants off the dole

Issue: "Campaigning from the closet," Sept. 19, 1998

When a WORLD reporter stepped into the office of Orestes Zuniga, director of health programs for World Relief Honduras, last February, he stepped into a real south-of-the-border hornets' nest. Dr. Zuniga told WORLD his agency was involved with "all forms of family planning" in Honduras. Abortion is illegal in Honduras, but there is growing evidence of heavy-handed practices by government and private agencies to force women into sterilization and other controversial forms of birth control. When word of Dr. Zuniga's comments reached World Relief headquarters in Wheaton, there was some scurrying for more details on World Relief's family planning in Honduras. At one point World Relief spokesman Linda Keys told WORLD the only contraceptives distributed through World Relief Honduras were condoms. But after the dust settled and the deadline passed, World Relief learned that in fact condoms were not distributed through their offices. There had been a plan to do so at one time, but it was never carried out. World Relief told WORLD it referred women seeking other forms of contraception to the Honduran Family Planning Association, an agency with links to pro-abortion agencies in the United States and under scrutiny for its use of sterilization procedures. World Relief later learned the referrals had occurred in less than a handful of cases. Yet those statements by then were already in print. The story behind the story is that relief agencies, seeking to develop community-based programs, can lose track of local projects in an effort not to micromanage. Seeking more easily obtained federal funds to enhance hard-won donor dollars, the biblical mandate can be lost under the weight of bureaucracy and secular thinking. "We simply did not know what was going on as we should have," World Relief President Clive Calver told WORLD in discussions following the March 28 article. "I think World Relief lost its way," he said. "It lost its identity. It became too good at refugee, relief, and development work and it lost its roots into the churches. I do not want an agency that 'partners' with the churches. Partnership implies equality or neutrality of standing. Jesus died for the church and rose to bring a church into being. We were set out as a wholly owned subsidiary of NAE to serve the churches. I want us owned by the churches and accountable to the churches." Last year Mr. Calver told members of the National Association of Evangelicals that he was not satisfied with the relief agency's level of dependence on Uncle Sam. He promised to "return the churches' relief agency to the churches." With World Relief entering the final weeks of its fiscal year, income from private contributions is up nearly 14 percent over last year and dependence on federal funding has dropped from approximately 43 percent last year to 33 percent, according to Mr. Calver. These figures do not include refugee resettlement expenses, for which the State Department reimburses World Relief under an ongoing contract at cost. That news came in a September WORLD interview, when he also discussed the campaign with House Republicans (see story) to move federal funds out of population control and into child-survival projects. WORLD: If a deal is cut in Congress to restore $50 million to child survival programs and cut $50 million in population-control programs-rather than the $100 million transfer you and others have asked for-will you be satisfied? Is that enough? CALVER: I am not happy with those numbers. It was not a cosmetic suggestion only; it was a real one. Do we have the leverage to get the $100 million? That's a question someone like Congressman Pitts would be better able to answer. WORLD: How much of that $50-100 million will World Relief see? CALVER: Only a small percentage of it goes to the NGOs [non-governmental organizations]-$12 million. We are not likely to see any of it. If anyone were to accuse us of self-interest on this, I would laugh at them. We are concerned to see the whole issue of child survival raised. We want to save people's lives rather than see the population-control debate advanced. WORLD: Will World Relief continue to consider "birth spacing," which involves family planning and contraceptives, a legitimate part of child survival programs under the USAID funds you receive? CALVER: World Relief is totally committed to the pro-life position. We are against any post-conception method of contraception and against federal funds being used for that purpose, or given to U.S. family-planning organizations and groups that support abortion. We do want to hold down maternal mortality and to actually maintain the health and survival of children where this does not include any post-conception contraceptive devices. WORLD: Have you had contact with pro-life groups and discussed your position? CALVER: I am very concerned to see this develop. We are considering cooperative schemes. My connection with CARE [a pro-life lobbying organization in Britain] is so strong, I am appalled that there is not a comparable connection here. WORLD: As you end the fiscal year on something of a high note, what comes next? CALVER: Our percentage of government money will get to 20 percent. I don't want to be in a position to be tarnished. I don't want to be in a position of dependency. I have no problems taking government money, depending on the small print. It's proportions-that's the worrying thing and it's what the conditions are. The U.S. government has not put anything onerous on us from our point of view, but that's very short-term thinking to live on. World Relief has considerable help because it is an arm of the NAE and is the churches' relief agency. The government actually looks at us differently. But our current level of support is unacceptable.

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Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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