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U.S. answers call from Ghana for emergency condom supply

Screen shot 2013-07-11 at 3.17.37 PM
Women in maternity ward in Ghana hospital. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters)

It was an "emergency" request from the Ghanian government to their U.S. counterparts: Please send condoms.

Just three months after 126 million of the “Be-Safe” condoms were withdrawn from circulation in Ghana, the U.S. has responded to the African countyry's request and sent 20 million condoms worth $650,000, according to the government's ministry of health.

"It was the third time in five years that the United States had sent an emergency supply of condoms to avoid a national stock-out of high-quality affordable condoms," said a government news service report posted on the Ghana ministry of health website.

The reason for the April recall: according to an April report in The Guardian, Ghana faced a major health issue because condoms supplied to the country's health service were discovered with holes in them. The condoms also burst easily, were too small and were not adequately lubricated, according to the report.

The government said at the time that the faulty condoms had been traced back to the original manufacturer, Henan Xibei Latex Company Limited, in Henan province, central China.

"This is a huge, huge problem," Faustina Fynn-Nyame, director of Marie Stopes International in Ghana, told The Guardian. "There will be a lot of unintended pregnancies as a result of this, and that means maternal mortality and unsafe abortion. Commercial sex workers also use these products [so] the consequences could be enormous."

The Guardian report and condom recall also came only two months after Ghana was warned to lower its birth rate by an official with the Environmental Protection Agency.

"My advice and plea to you, young adults, is that you should guard against littering the Earth with babies you cannot adequately cater for," EPA official Togbe Ahorney said at a symposium in February.

Ghana actually reduced its crude birth rate — defined as births per thousand inhabitants —to 31.07 in 2011, down from 47.63 in 1965, according to United Nations statistics.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead


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