Sjedullah Hoxha is waiting for his washer and dryer. Impatiently waiting, truth be told, because it has been more than a month since he agreed to the terms of the transaction. Furthermore, his Pristina hospital is in desperate need of help with the laundry.
Dr. Hoxha is a reluctant warrior in the population-control war. With an average of 30 babies born every day in his Kosovo maternity ward following the return of ethnic Albanians to the embattled area, he has little time to think about preventing pregnancies. Making do is job No. 1. Yet, the promise of appliances won him to the cause.
Officials from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) offered to donate a washer and dryer after they learned that Dr. Hoxha, head of obstetrics and gynecology at Kosovo's main hospital, was running a maternity ward with only one working washing machine to process daily linens. Dr. Hoxha had declined to become involved in a UNFPA initiative, or to serve on a medical advisory committee the UN agency was convening for Kosovo. By spotting the need for a washer, however, the UNFPA found a way around his objections.
Family-planning programs for Kosovo have been the subject of controversy since, earlier this year, UN agencies began pushing "emergency contraceptive kits" upon refugee women during the war. Last April, the UNFPA began delivery of "reproductive health" supplies to as many as 350,000 Kosovar Albanians in refugee camps. The list of supplies included oral contraceptives, IUDs, condoms, so-called emergency contraceptives, "complications from abortions kits," and vacuum aspirators. UNFPA was supplying the contraceptives, along with private organizations, even as the UN Population Conference was stalling over whether post-conception drugs such as
RU-486 should be considered acceptable forms of family planning.
Fresh debate about the UN's work there arose earlier this month when President Clinton vetoed a $12.7 billion foreign-aid bill. One point of contention for the White House: The package did not contain enough money for the UN. Groups opposing UNFPA activities see an opportunity to reduce even further the agency's funding now that the president has sent the funding package back to Capitol Hill. They hope that, by demonstrating the coercive nature of UNFPA's work in Kosovo, they can persuade lawmakers to eliminate the $25 million in taxpayer funds currently slated for UNFPA in this year's budget.
Enter Dr. Hoxha. The UN issued several press releases about the poor conditions in his maternity ward, the urgent need for a new washing machine, as well as a generator, fresh linens, food, and other basic supplies. The press reports said Dr. Hoxha had "ordered" some of those supplies from UNFPA.
Dr. Hoxha tells it differently. He says the washing machine was offered as an "inducement" to accept UNFPA contraceptives, and that he was pressured to serve on an advisory committee called the "National Committee for Healthy Families." The committee is made up of medical personnel who are predominantly of Serb descent, and it will front the local work of UNFPA. Dr. Hoxha said that since he agreed to UNFPA's terms over a month ago, the washer and dryer have not arrived, nor have any other items promised by UNFPA.
Asked whether the washer and dryer were part of a package deal conditioned on his participation in the contraceptive program, Dr. Hoxha replied, "Yes, of course."
Those who oppose the work of the family-planning agency say the UN is operating from a double standard in Kosovo. UN refugee officials called for the indictment of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as a war criminal, while UNFPA officers were apparently working with Mr. Milosevic's health minister to set up the Kosovo program. The UN Security Council placed embargoes on many imports into Belgrade. The United States and other nations did not exempt food and medical supplies from a list of embargoed items until the end of April.
Yet, according to UNFPA's own records, a "needs assessment" for reproductive services in Kosovo was conducted in December 1998. And by the first week of April, officials were touting their work among Kosovo Albanians and working out of an office in Pristina jointly operated with Marie Stopes International, a British pro-abortion group.
The assessment found that ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have children at a rate that is five times the rate of Serbs in the province. Most Albanians are Muslim and more philosophically conservative than the Serbs whom they have battled. Those numbers are what concern Mr. Milosevic's authoritarian, Serb-dominated government. His Minister of Family Concerns, Rada Trajkovic, said, "The state must find a way to stimulate the birthrate of the populations in central and northern Serbia and to limit or forbid the enormous increase of the birthrate in Kosovo."
The assessment also found (not surprisingly) that "ethnic Albanians do not trust the public-sector [reproductive health] system." It read, "from the Albanian point of view, family-planning programs and condom distribution are an effort to reduce the population."
Pro-life groups in the United States share the distrust. "The UNFPA is complicit in Milosevic's 'stealth' ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kosovar population," said Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute. "The UNFPA has admitted that it is working hand-in-glove with the Milosevic regime, which the world knows has recently attempted the forceful extermination of its Kosovar minority."
Austin Ruse, director of Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, says the collaboration was confirmed in a tape-recorded phone message he received from UNFPA spokesman Sterling Scruggs. Mr. Scruggs said, "The [Yugoslav] government asked us to do what we could and we were able to find funds to help out, and we had just completed a needs assessment at the request of the Yugoslavian government in Kosovo, and the only thing we will be doing now there is going back to update the needs assessment. And there will in time be a regular program there."
Mr. Scruggs denies that he made that remark, even though Mr. Ruse and the Population Research Institute have made a tape of it publicly available. UNFPA officials say they are not working anywhere else in Yugoslavia except Kosovo, which, to pro-life groups, indicates that they are targeting the Albanian population. Mr. Scruggs said the tape "hardly represents evidence of any wrongdoing by UNFPA," and he told reporters the agency has never had dealings with President Milosevic.
Michael Schwartz, legislative aide for Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), said, "The UNFPA knew what Milosevic wanted. They knowingly participated in a mission that was intended to redress the population balance in Kosovo."
Rep. Coburn, an ob/gyn who delivers babies on weekends back home, believes funding can be stripped from this year's spending bill because U.S. policy prohibits funding coercive family-planning programs through UNFPA. U.S. funding for the agency was eliminated in last year's budget over renewed concerns about China's one-child policy and forced abortions. "The White House has to change funding priorities," said Mr. Schwartz. "If the president wants money for Wye River Accords [U.S. aid promised to Israel and the Palestinians after they signed the land-for-security agreement a year ago] or something else, it has to come out of other categories."
For lawmakers, UNFPA may be an easy mark. No matter how they view abortion and family-planning issues, most-having supported NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia-are not ready to fund a mandate from Mr. Milosevic to assist in ethnic cleansing, whether it's with a rifle or RU-486.