SUMMARY: The report that follows will prove that Catholic Relief Services created a health referral network which includes “sexual and reproductive health” as a component. In relation to this, CRS’s project partnered with another project, creating a direct referral system with an organization called RENATA, a group which promotes and dispenses contraception and even takes girls to have abortions. At least three other organizations included in this network (created by CRS as the lead on the project) promote and/or provide condoms and contraception. This network was designed to last beyond CRS’s participation in the project, planting seeds of corruption which will only bear corrupt fruit.
For the last two weeks, we’ve been releasing segments of a 100-page report that is the result of a year long investigation of Catholic Relief Services programs in Africa. In our first segment, we showed CRS-copyrighted documents that promote condom use. In our second segment, we uncovered the fact that CRS is the proprietor of a website called OVCSupport.org, which is an internet library for documents that promote abortion, contraception and condom use.
In this report, we’re going to take a close look at one of CRS’s own projects in Cameroon, and we’ll prove to you that CRS was directly and willfully responsible for the creation of a health referral network that that involved sending teenaged girls to Planned Parenthood style clinics for sexual and reproductive health services.
Below is the full video explaining this report, or, if you prefer to read it, following that is the transcript.
From June of 2014 to June of 2019, Catholic Relief Services was in charge of a $7.6 million, USAID-funded project called Key Interventions to Develop Systems and Services for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, or KIDSS, for short.
In a one-page flyer on the project, CRS indicated that the three primary goals of the project were to
- Increase use of targeted services by orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and their households at community and facility levels
- Improve capacity of communities, vulnerable households, and local facilities to provide HIV services, and
- Strengthen government systems and policy environment for sustainable care and treatment of OVC affected by HIV.
CRS then explained in its flyer what all that means. It said:
“KIDSS facilitates access to direct services for OVC through case management, assessing families for their strengths and needs, creating case plans, and linking families and children to appropriate services to achieve their case plans. The project also ensures that all those identified as HIV-positive are linked to clinical care and treatment services and supports community-based activities to retain children and adolescents in care.”
What you will soon see is that the “linking of families and children to appropriate services” is a referral network, but the question here is what exactly are the services children and families are being referred for?
Well, on the back side of this flyer, CRS created a chart giving an overview of the services provided. As you can see at the bottom of the chart are the letters SRH, which means sexual and reproductive health. And right beside the chart is a set of “key results,” and among them is “HIV negative children benefit from HIV prevention activities, including sexual and reproductive health education.”
This isn’t the only time Sexual and Reproductive health services is mentioned by CRS as a part of the KIDSS project. In September of 2017, CRS held a conference call on OVC programming, and during the call, CRS representative Carl Stecker discussed the KIDSS project. About 20 minutes into his presentation, Dr. Stecker clearly indicated that SRH was included as a part of CRS’s own initiative within the KIDSS project. Here’s what he said:
“At the year 3, FY17, we’re coming to the close of which now, we started all of our additional services which include Early Childhood Development, Scholarships (especially for girl children ages 10-17), our Sexual and Reproductive Health Behavior Change and gender-based violence prevention programs …”
In addition to this, in the Spring of 2018, CRS posted a job announcement that indicated it was looking for a SRH/GBV specialist for its KIDSS project. This job announcement said:
“An international humanitarian based in Yaoundé is seeking a highly qualified Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Specialist to support the implementation of AYSRH and GBV prevention and response Programming targeting adolescents and youth. The SRH/GBV Specialist will be responsible for ensuring the quality of AYSRH and GBV activities implemented by local partners and promote integration with other orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) services.”
Clearly, CRS is not ignorant of the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health services in the KIDSS project. But this is just the beginning of the concern. We needed to know exactly what sexual and reproductive health meant in this case, and who CRS’s partners were. What we discovered was that CRS was partnered with pro-abortion, contraception-providing agencies who are no different than Planned Parenthood, for the referral of those sexual and reproductive health services.
The organizations included by CRS for this referral network are: RENATA, Horizons Women, SWAA Littoral, and Merenso.
One thing to bear in mind as you examine the evidence I’m about to show you is that the goal of this project is sustainability, so that the local organizations will eventually take charge of the project as a whole. And given the organizations CRS chose to include, this means that organizations as rotten as Planned Parenthood will be included in directing the project, which will ultimately have an impact on the society as a whole. In fact, one of the organizations itself is active in trying to change the country’s pro-life laws so that abortion can be legalized.
Do you remember how, in our last video, we mentioned that CRS had removed a bunch of documents from the OVCSupport website, and then reinstated most of them? One of the documents CRS did NOT reinstate was a USAID document titled, Addressing Children of Key Populations. We weren’t even aware of this document until we began investigating KIDSS and its partners, and then it started showing up on internet searches. But when we clicked on it (this is the original link), every indication was that it had been deleted.
Well, when CRS deletes a document, we have to ask if there is something in the document CRS doesn’t want us to see. As it turns out, there’s a very good reason CRS wouldn’t want us seeing this document, which you’ll understand in a moment. Fortunately, the internet never forgets and we found a cached version of this document somewhere else [the cache is now gone as well. We have saved the cached document to our website, altering it only to fix the formatting, so that it is readable].
On page 13 of Addressing Children of Key Populations, USAID explained that in September of 2016, KIDSS (under the leadership of CRS) partnered with another program called Continuum of Prevention, Care and Treatment of HIV/AIDS with Most-At-Risk Populations (CHAMP). The purpose of the partnership was to pilot “an integrated approach to improve HIV outcomes and overall well-being among children of [female sex workers] FSWs.” USAID explained that CHAMP would refer HIV positive children of female sex workers for enrollment in the KIDSS program. From there KIDSS would evaluate the children as case managers and put together an assessment of needs for each child, assigning various services. USAID then explained the services that would be provided by KIDSS, including the referral of adolescent females to an organization called RENATA. The document says:
“The KIDSS menu of services includes: early childhood development, household economic strengthening, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education and risk avoidance, post gender-based violence (GBV) care package, educational support (school block grants and scholarships), nutritional assessment including counseling and referrals for nutrition supplementation, linkage to ART and retention support, and age-appropriate adherence counseling and psychosocial support. In addition, adolescent girls are referred to a CHAMP sub-partner, RENATA, which is a national network of teenage mothers with extensive experience providing services to women and girls who have experienced violence.”
The very next line provides a clear explanation as to why CRS would want to hide this document. After indicating that CRS’s project is referring adolescent girls to RENATA, USAID then says:
“RENATA provides comprehensive SRH services (including condoms), GBV prevention and a comprehensive post-GBV care package.” (emphasis added)
On 22 May 2018 a PEPFAR solutions template was submitted by Maury Mendenhall of USAID. The beginning of the document asks what the problem was, so Mendenhall explained that “most” female sex workers were not tested for HIV prior to childbirth, which means that a large number of children could be infected and un-diagnosed. Identified in the solution portion is the partnership between CHAMP and KIDSS that we just identified. As with the USAID document, this solution template explains that referrals are made to RENATA, which “provide GBV prevention and full-spectrum SRH services.”
On page 7 of this PEPFAR report is a chart explaining the relationship between KIDSS and RENATA. In short, the working referral relationship between CRS’s project and RENATA is completely undeniable.
As can be seen in the chart, KIDSS is identified as providing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education and risk avoidance. KIDSS is referring adolescent girls to RENATA, RENATA is providing “comprehensive SRH” and, RENATA is referring girls back to KIDSS.
Explaining the relationship between RENATA and KIDSS even further, Mendenhall states that KIDSS case managers “facilitated linkage to treatment for all HIV-infected children (providing accompaniment as needed) as well as community-based care and support services.” It also explained that “Older adolescent girls are also referred to RENATA,” identifying it as a “national network of teenage mothers with extensive experience providing services to women and girls who have experienced violence and comprehensive SRH services.”
Another interesting thing to note is that in joint visits to children and their mothers by CHAMP and KIDSS workers, “RENATA’s Peer Educators (Tantines) provide GBV prevention and comprehensive SRH services; comprehensive post-GBV care is provided via one-stop shops.”
What this indicates is that KIDSS care managers aren’t just making referrals to RENATA, but are in point of fact, including RENATA for the inclusion of “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services” at in-home visits. The reason for RENATA’s inclusion in these in-home visits is made abundantly clear on page 6, where it says:
“The target population is biological children (age 0-17 years) residing with HIV-infected FSW. Motherhood is common among female sex workers (FSWs) and with low contraceptive use and high burden of unintended pregnancy, they have poor reproductive outcomes and preventable mother-to-child HIV transmission risk.”
In short, KIDSS is bringing RENATA to female sex workers in order to promote and provide contraception for the purpose of preventing “unintended pregnancy.”
But the clear intertwining of RENATA with KIDSS doesn’t end there. In fact, the connection to CRS appears to be even more direct. A man named Gael Ekobono indicates on his linkedin profile that he is a case manager for “Catholic Relief Services/RENATA/KIDSS”.
Given that Ekobono started his work for CRS/RENATA/KIDSS in 2018, it is reasonable to conclude that he was hired as a result of the job announcement we mentioned earlier. If this is the case, then the indisputable ties between CRS and RENATA are as direct as they are undeniable.
And while the documents we’ve already mentioned illustrate RENATA’s role as providing sexual and reproductive health services in the KIDSS project, further information on RENATA reveals that it poses an immediate danger to the lives of preborn children and the souls of their mothers.
In May of 2018, RENATA placed a job announcement for three volunteer positions for the KIDSS project on behalf of CRS. The announcement says:
“As part of the implementation of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) KIDSS project in Douala RENATA wishes for its need for project implementation staff to recruit for the following positions …”
At the beginning of the job announcement, RENATA provides some background information on the organization, giving greater details on the Sexual and Reproductive Health services that it provides.
Founded in 2005, RENATA (Aunties National Network) is an a-politic and non-profit organization whose vision is a society without gender-based violence and without HIV/AIDS. This large national platform was founded by the victims of early pregnancy and GBV to respond to the ever-increasing incidence of rape, early pregnancy and breast ironing in Cameroon estimated at 5 , 2% following a study conducted by an anthropologist and the collaboration of GIZ in 2005. RENATA’s mission is thus the fight against early pregnancy, harmful traditional practices and gender-based violence through its main campaign popular in Cameroon “Rape is a crime, Break the silence”. The main activities carried out are as follows:
Prevention of early pregnancy and promotion of Family Planning methods
The aim is to equip girls and young women with the causes of early pregnancy, reproductive health, family planning, HIV/AIDS, harmful practices such as abortion. In recent years, 4728 girls have been trained in the northern regions. 84% of these girls were screened with a 97% removal rate. The follow-up training carried out revealed a rate of acceptance of Family Planning of 59.4% with a rate of 94.8% of use of the reliable methods (IUD, Jadelle, Depo, Pill) and 5.2% of male and/or female condoms.
As part of the E2A project implemented in partnership with MSH and USAID, RENATA has contributed to the promotion and reinforcement of the quality of RH and FP services (at the community and FOSA level in 5 health districts). of the central region (Djoungolo, Biyem-Assi, Green City, Nkolndongo and Efoulan).
In addition to this, RENATA is actively involved in the promotion of so-called “safe abortion” in Cameroon and calling for the decriminalization of abortions. In May of 2018, the very same month in which it was recruiting for CRS’s KIDSS project, RENATA took part in a “Needs Assessment on Safe Abortion Advocacy.” On page 17 of the Assessment, under the heading “Advocacy and measures to prevent unsafe abortions,” it states:
“Various organisations in Cameroon, such as women for change, IPPF, PSI, RENATA are advocating for safe abortion services, changing the legality conditions and provision of contraceptives.”
In May of 2017, the Independent published an article with the headline, “Renata: Cameroon’s ‘army of aunties’ unite to protect vulnerable girls from sexual abuse.” In the article, the Independent reported how RENATA, whose acronym translates as “National Network of Aunties Associations,” provides free contraceptives to prostitutes:
“At night some of the aunties can be found in the dark alleyways and brothels of downtown Yaounde’s red-light district, talking to sex workers and distributing free contraceptives.”
In 2011, RENATA published a document titled, “‘Aunties’ for sexual health and non-violence How unwed young mothers become advocates, teachers and counsellors in Cameroon.” On page 31 of the document, under a discussion on RENATA’s impact in the community, RENATA freely admits its part in helping some girls obtain abortions:
“The Aunties’ advice often focused on the benefits of using condoms and how to use them properly. Some girls were given “morning-after” pills and others received support in bringing their pregnancy to early and safe termination, usually with the cooperation of the boy or man involved. In a few instances, the entire association had supported girls in getting safe abortions and even in laying charges against rapists.”
There’s a lot more I could tell you about RENATA, and it’s all bad, but RENATA isn’t the only horrible organization that CRS included in the KIDSS project. In fact, four out of the overall five Community Based Organizations (or CBOs) working with CRS on the KIDSS project are involved in the promotion and/or the distribution of contraception and condoms.
We discovered the identities of the CBOs that CRS recruited because one of them mentioned all five in an article that it wrote about a three-day event they all participated in for the KIDSS project. Originally published in French, the English translation says:
“The Codas Caritas conference room has experienced unusual excitement since October 24, 2018. Such animation is justified by the holding of the kick-off meeting of the KIDSS project project for the 2019 fiscal year which runs until Friday 26 October 2018. Under the auspices of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the 5 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) implementing the project made the trip to take part in the activities. These are Horizons Women , Renata , SWAA Littoral , Merenso and Codas Caritas. In total, about 66 people filled the conference room located at the locality of Terminus in Douala.”
We’ve already told you about RENATA, so let’s talk about SWAA Littoral. SWAA stands for “Society for Women and AIDS in Africa.” Bearing in mind that SWAA is one of the Community Based Organizations in CRS’s KIDSS Project, all you really need to know about it is that it published this trifold brochure that promoted all manner of modern contraceptives, including abortifacients.
The front of the brochure identifies that it is a publication of SWAA, and on this side, you can see the description of spermicides, female condoms, male condoms, and injectable contraception.
On the other side, you can see contraceptive pills, implantable contraception, the diaphragm, cervical caps, vaginal rings, IUDs, and the contraceptive patch.
Horizons Femmes is another CBO working with CRS on the KIDSS project. In fact, it’s the organization which identified all five CBOs participating in the KIDSS project, and a quick perusal through its website reveals that it is an organization that hands out condoms and gives condom demonstrations.
In January of 2018, Horizon Femmes held a workshop as part of what it calls the “Trusted Partners” project as part of its efforts to combat gender based violence and HIV/AIDS. The stated purpose of the workshop was to “mobilize partners of sex workers and women living with HIV to talk about attitudes to HIV and GBV prevention.” The discussion on HIV prevention included “two demonstration sessions of male and female condom wearing were made respectively by a participant and a staff of the association.”
A few weeks later, Horizons Femmes held another workshop on “HIV and nutrition.” The stated purpose of the workshop was to “inform participants about the importance of balanced eating, about the need to avoid excessive alcohol, and about the impact that adherence to hours of medication can have,” and included in this was a demonstration on condom application. Horizon Femmes said:
“Since we know that prevention is better than cure, the educational talk was reinforced by the traditional demonstration of male and female condom wearing.”
In August of 2018, Horizon Femmes hosted another “Trusted Partners” workshop which once again provided information on “correct and consistent wearing of condoms.”
In an April 2016 article on CamerounWeb, a spokesman for Horizon Femmes discussed the increase of their condom distributions. From the article:
Michelle Mbiaga of Horizon Femmes, an NGO in Yaounde says, “We used to give out two condoms per commercial sex hawker per day and we have increased the number to 4, which is still not enough for over 20 ladies we receive in our centre daily”.
“The demand is increasing and annually about 9000 female condoms are distributed.”
MERENSO is another partner in the KIDSS project that is involved in the promotion of abortion, contraception and condoms. The first thing we found about MERENSO was a blog it ran which has no new entries since 2009. What is important to note is that an entry from January 2009 provides examples of what MERENSO does in relation to sexual and reproductive health. This entry is a copy of MERENSO’s Annual Activity Report for 2008. In section II.4, MERENSO indicated that it participated in a project focusing on “good sexual health,” and “the promotion of male and female condoms.”
In section II.4.1, MERENSO indicated that among the fourteen topics it counseled on were “sexual life,” “abortion,” “sexual and reproductive rights,” “contraceptive methods,” and “correct condom use.”
In section II.4.4, MERENSO provides specific details on it’s condom distributing activities:
But that was 2009. We needed to make sure MERENSO was still involved in the promotion of grave moral evils before we included them in this report. On MERENSO’s page regarding it’s participation in the 2nd National Forum on PMTCT from 10-12 September 2019, it posted a picture of its display at the forum itself.
Of particular note is the woman circled in red in the image on the left. The woman circled in the picture is holding a model of a vagina and is pulling a female condom out of it, as can be seen in the blown-up image on the right.
What this proves is that even as recently as September 2019, MERENSO is involved in the promotion and demonstration of female condoms. It also serves as further proof that MERENSO maintains the promotion of condom use as a means of educating people in sexual and reproductive health even now, as it did in 2009 with its annual report.
Another project MERENSO is participating in currently is titled, “Scaling up HIV prevention to help reduce mortality and morbidity by 2020.” The project is funded by The Global Fund for the year 2019-2020. Under the heading “Activities,” MERENSO posted a photograph of several people sitting at a table with a large phallus (circled in red) situated in the middle.
Let’s review. Catholic Relief Services is the lead on a USAID-funded project in Cameroon called KIDSS. One of the purposes of the project was to create a health referral network, specifically including sexual and reproductive health as a component.
In relation to this, CRS-KIDSS partnered with CHAMP and created a referral system with an organization called RENATA, which promotes and dispenses contraception, and even takes girls to have abortions.
Other Community Based Organizations included in the CRS-led KIDSS project include the contraception and condom promoting Horizons Femmes, SWAA Littoral, and MERENSO.
There can be absolutely no doubt that CRS has created a referral network in Cameroon that includes organizations intent upon corrupting the morals of young people by promoting and providing contraception and condoms.
What must be remembered is that this referral network will last well beyond CRS’s participation in the project. So, by establishing a referral network that includes four organizations that are actively involved in the promotion and distribution of contraception, CRS has made itself a willing participant in the promotion of activities that corrupt the morals of the youth.
In our next report, we’ll prove to you that this isn’t the only time CRS has set up a referral network that included Planned Parenthood-style organizations.