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Changing the CHANNEL

By Rob Gaspe

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is notorious as a premiere driving force of the population control agenda among the various UN agencies involved in worldwide human development. The UNFPA’s general solution to any problem—be it poverty, ecological devastation, maternal mortality, or pandemic disease—is to flood an area with contraceptives while convincing the local populace that children are burdens instead of blessings. However, the UNFPA realized that, for some reason, the tidal wave of contraception was not always reaching its intended targets and set about to find a solution to this “problem.”

Enter CHANNEL, a piece of software developed by the UNFPA, touted as the most simple “contraceptive logistics management information system” (CLMIS). UNFPA literature boasts of the incredible successes in utilizing CHANNEL. For instance, in Madagascar:

The government adopted CHANNEL computer software for control, transparency and follow-up in the management of health supplies. This supported improvement across the board. CPR [Contraceptive Prevalence Rate] in Madagascar rose by 11 percentage points from 2004 to 2009, to reach 29.2 percent. This remarkable increase stands in contrast to the country’s relatively stagnant rates during the years leading up to strategic GPRHCS [Global Program to Enhance Reproductive Health Commodity Security] support. Unmet need declined from 24 percent in 2004 to 19 percent in 2009 and 2010. Access to appropriate methods is improving: The percentage of service delivery points (SDPs) offering at least three modern contraceptive methods improved in Madagascar from 30.8 percent 2009 to 47.8 percent in 2010 to 97.2 percent in 2011. (UNFPA GPRHCS Annual Report 2012, p.80)

With “success” like this, the UNFPA is making a major push to utilize the CHANNEL software in as many developing countries as possible. Now, it is true that CHANNEL can be used for more than the management of contraceptive supplies, though that is its primary and intended use. In fact, Catholic Relief Services is using CHANNEL software for the management of mosquito net supplies in Guinea, which in and of itself may not be troubling as long as its use is in no way supporting UNFPA’s population control agenda. However, there seems to be more to the story.

The same UNFPA report touting success in using CHANNEL in Madagascar has this odd paragraph concerning Catholic Relief Services: “Guinea (Conakry) faced significant challenges in operating LMIS/CHANNEL for reproductive health commodity security and distribution: Outlying areas lacked sufficient electrical service to run the computers. With funding from Catholic Relief Services, 19 of 33 prefectures were equipped with solar energy sources, allowing UNFPA-supported CHANNEL software to be put into place for reproductive health supply management while CRS utilized CHANNEL to aid in distribution of health-protecting mosquito netting.” (emphasis added)

This piece of information can be corroborated in CRS’s Round 10 Global Fund Grant Performance Report that states: “For the LMIS [Logistics Management Information System] system, the PR [primary recipient, CRS] has proposed to use the CHANNEL software to track the distribution of LLINs [Long Lasting Insecticide Nets] and has provided a description of its application for the mass distribution campaign. CHANNEL is now installed and the configuration is complete.” (Guinea Grant Performance Report, p.7)

At the very least, CRS funded solar generators intended to power computers running CHANNEL software. The UNFPA claims that it is using these computers to run CHANNEL to assist the flow of contraceptives, while CRS is using these computers to manage mosquito nets. We know for certain that CRS has chosen CHANNEL as its software of choice for that purpose. What we do not know is what knowledge or level of cooperation CRS had in facilitating UNFPA’s use of CHANNEL in Guinea to the spreading of contraception, nor are we claiming CRS intended UNFPA to use this software in Guinea to spread contraceptives.

However, given that CHANNEL is only obtainable from the UNFPA as it is its own software, perhaps CRS may have been better served to find another solution. I sent CRS’ media representative John Rivera a list of questions regarding this situation and did not hear back in time for the deadline. In the interest of full disclosure, the questions were as follows:

• Was PSI (Population Services International) supplied a number of computers and laptops as part of the Round 10 Global Fund malaria grant (as indicated in section 4.2.9 of the grant proposal)?

• Did CRS choose and install CHANNEL software to manage distribution of LLINs as found in section 1.5, CP #12 of the grant performance report?

• Did CRS fund the installation of solar generators at a number of sites (19 prefectures) in Guinea for the purpose of running computers with CHANNEL software? Was this done primarily for CRS use, or for another organization?

• What other organizations share these same sites/computers for running CHANNEL software in Guinea? For what purposes?

Answers to these questions are in desperate need, as on the surface one could readily conclude that CRS has wittingly or unwittingly furthered the stated population goals of the UNFPA in Guinea in (a fungible) exchange for the ability to properly track the distribution of mosquito nets.

Rob Gasper is a senior research analyst for American Life League and is the editor of ALL News.