THE Vatican has decided to support the Organisation in giving family-planning nations belonging to WHO who want it. The decision, announced at
World Health advice to any
the World Health Assembly in Geneva. was welcomed by the 120 nations represented. Ireland and Italy urged that WHO should not actually recommend family limitation. In fact, a resolution passed unanimously by the assembly specifically roles out any such campaign by WI10. It will study the medical aspects of family planning. and only give its findings to any country asking for them.
IMPORTANT DECISION The assembly emphasised that this would in no way interfere with the right of any government to adopt its own policy on family planning: it could use all, or part, or none, of the information which would be available to it.
The Vatican observer at the assembly, the Rev. R. P. H. de Riedmatten, secretary of the Vatican Committee on Population, gave general support to a WHO report on the population explosion, family planning. the birth-control pill, and the intra-uterine devices recently developed. It is on this report that WHO will base its studies and recommendations.
Although WHO does not. in the words of its own resolution, consider it part of its responsibility to endorse or promote any particular policy on population, there is no doubt that the Vatican's support for a policy WHO has long sought to implement will have a tremendous impact.
Hitherto, the Catholic countries which are members of WI 10 have most strenuously opposed the idea of giving advice to any nation on family planning. When the idea was mooted at the 1952 World Health Assembly. more than 10 Catholic countries threatened to walk out.
As a result of this, the subject has not even been raised in recent years.
Now. however, what was described in Geneva as "possibly one of the most important decisions ever made by the organisation" will lead to something of a revolution in many over-crowded and hungry lands.
The World Health Organisation. spread across the earth, has since it was founded 17 years ago.'virtually stamped out malaria over a vast area of Asia. used a kind of "health Interpol" to intercept carriers of diseases such as smallpox, and worked quietly and steadily to preserve poor and hungry people from an otherwise inevitably early death.