· Madagascan contraception targets deleted, critics say
· Managing director said to have links to Opus Dei
Juan José Daboub, the bank's managing director, ordered staff to remove all references to family planning from its country assistance programme document for Madagascar. Mr Daboub is the former finance minister of El Salvador and a member of the Arena party, which has close ties to the Catholic church.
The Guardian understands from sources close to the Africa region that specific targets relating to contraception were also deleted. The original draft committed the bank to work to increase contraception uptake from 14% as of 2004 to 20%. The final document contained no goal.
The British international development secretary, Hilary Benn, who has strongly backed efforts to improve the reproductive health of women in the developing world, said yesterday that he was very concerned. "If true, they [the reports] are extraordinary. This would be inconsistent with bank policy on reproductive health."
In the past, the World Bank has championed the sexual and reproductive rights of women, which are considered by most in international development as critical to their health, status and economic progress. There are 75m unplanned pregnancies around the world each year, a third of which end in unsafe abortions. The need for better services to enable women to protect their health has been thrown into sharp relief by the Aids epidemic.
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