September 20, 2018 / 3:45 PM / 2 months ago

Tanzania suspends U.S.-funded family planning ads on radio, television

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania has suspended broadcasting of family planning advertisements by a U.S.-funded project, a health ministry letter showed, a fortnight after President John Magufuli said family planning was for those “too lazy to take care of their children”.

FILE PHOTO: Tanzania's President John Magufuli addresses a news conference during his official visit to Nairobi, Kenya October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

The letter written by a senior official in the ministry covering health and gender issues asked the head of FHI 360, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, to immediately stop airing advertisements under a project called Tulonge Afya (Let’s speak health).

“The ministry intends to revise the contents of all your ongoing radio and TV spots for family planning, thus I request you to stop with immediate effect airing and publishing any family planning contents in any media channels until further notice,” the letter, dated Sept. 19, said.

A source at the health ministry who did not wish to be named confirmed the letter’s authenticity.

On September 9, Magufuli expressed his doubts about family planning.

“If you cannot work then opt for family planning but if you can work hard why family planning?” he said.

“Let me tell you in front of the minister of health who is always advocating for family planning, go to farm, work hard … if you have enough food then give birth as you can,” he said during a tour in central Tanzania’s Simiyu region.

Magufuli, nicknamed ‘The Bulldozer’ for his forceful leadership style, has introduced anti-corruption measures and tough economic reforms since taking office in November 2015, including cuts to government spending and overhauling the fiscal and regulatory regime of the mining sector in Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer.

Critics say his cost-cutting measures and policy changes are excessive and undermine growth by stifling foreign investment in vital sectors such as mining.

Officials from FHI 360 and U.S. Aid Tanzania office did not immediately respond when Reuters sought comment.

Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen; editing by George Obulutsa and Richard Balmforth

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