UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, positively impact the lives of women and young people, communities and nations, which is why more than 150 nations seek support from this agency. UNFPA promotes the health and rights of people and supports programs that help women plan their families, avoid unintended pregnancies, have healthy pregnancies and deliveries, reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, end harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage
, and prevent and treat obstetric fistula. During crises, UNFPA also provides humanitarian relief. UNFPA is a critical source of ongoing support to developing countries worldwide.
UNFPA invests in and supports several key, interrelated issues including:
- Access to Contraception and Family Planning: At least 200 million women want to use safe and effective family planning methods, but are unable to do so because they lack access to information and services or the support of their partners or communities. UNFPA supports efforts to offer a wide selection of contraceptive methods and information about each of those methods, meet high standards of medical practice and to also address women’s other reproductive health needs.
- Midwifery and Emergency Obstetric Care: More than 1000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth each day. Several countries have had success in reducing these deaths by implementing a three pronged approach of access to contraception, having skilled care at the time of birth and that those with complications have timely access to quality emergency obstetric care. UNFPA’s major global initiative on strengthening midwifery skills with the International Confederation of Midwives in Africa, Asia and Latin America, supports midwifery training programs in 30 different countries. UNFPA works at many levels and with many partners to expand access to obstetric care – from analyzing policies that stand in the way of good health outcomes, to upgrading health facilities to better address emergencies.
- HIV and Other STIs: UNFPA works to intensify and scale up HIV prevention efforts using rights-based and evidence-informed strategies, including attention to the gender inequalities that add fuel to the epidemic. Within UNAIDS, UNFPA takes a leadership role in male and female condom programming and prevention among young people and women, two groups who are increasingly at risk of infection, as well as outreach to other vulnerable populations. UNFPA is also committed to the human rights of people living with HIV and to ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health care that meets their specific needs.
- Obstetric Fistula: UNFPA is helping to lead the Campaign to End Fistula. Obstetric fistula is a debilitating condition that leaves women incontinent and ashamed. Fistula is both preventable and treatable, but continues to plague millions of women throughout the developing world. Between 2003- 2010, at least 20,000 women with the devastating birth injury obstetric fistula have been repaired and received care with assistance from UNFPA.
- Female Genital Mutilation: Every year, 3 million women and girls in Africa alone face the prospect of female genital mutilation (FGM), while 100 to 140 million worldwide have already undergone the practice. UNFPA and UNICEF are working together – and making progress – to end FGM. Three years into the joint program, more than 6,000 communities in Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea and Somalia have already abandoned the practice.
- Emergency Situations: UNFPA also works in post-conflict and disaster situations, where women have particular needs for personal safety. During conflicts, rape and other sexual violence is increasingly used as a weapon of war. Following natural disasters, women and girls may be forced to offer sex in exchange for food, shelter or protection. UNFPA moves quickly when emergency strikes, to protect the reproductive health of communities in crisis – in both the near and long term.
- Essential Commodities: UNFPA’s goal is reproductive health commodity security, which means that all individuals can obtain and use affordable, quality reproductive health supplies of their choice whenever they need them. Achieving this is a complex process, and must be geared to the vastly different needs and capacities of different countries. UNFPA and its partners assess country needs and tailor support to ensure a reliable supply of contraceptives, condoms, medicines and equipment essential to programming. The idea is to move from providing supplies to supplying know-how, including building country capacity.
UNFPA is committed to the advancement of human rights around the world. The idea that all individuals are entitled to equal rights and protection is fundamental to UNFPA’s work and to its way of working. More specifically, UNFPA promotes voluntary family planning and opposes all forms of coercion, targets or quotas. Laws and policies that dictate reproductive decisions are a violation of human rights. When UNFPA works in a country that has these violations of human rights, it works with the country to implement programs that are completely voluntary, working as a source of change from the current practices. UNFPA’s projects require strict adherence to human rights standards grounded in informed consent. Donors to UNFPA often cite UNFPA’s work in this area as instrumental into changes in host government approaches toward protecting citizen’s reproductive health and rights.
U.S. Support for UNFPA
Understanding that UNFPA is integral to a world wide effort to promote women's rights and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services, the Obama administration signaled its intention to change the Bush Administration policies and have the United States join the global community in funding UNFPA. In a January 23, 2009 statement the Administration said it would take the necessary steps and work to restore funding for UNFPA.
Despite this leadership and restoration of funding for UNFPA, Congressional opponents are intensifying efforts to defund the UN agency. As part of the House Republican leadership’s YouCut program, where the public is offered the opportunity to vote on-line on a list of government programs to kill, a bill to end the U.S. contribution to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has been introduced. As the House takes up various bills that affect UNFPA, we can expect that opponents will take these opportunities to end US support for UNFPA.
Some History: The Bush Administration’s Refusal to Fund UNFPA
In May 2001, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell testified to Congress that UNFPA “provides critical population assistance to developing countries” and recommended that the Administration maintain funding for the agency. Despite this recommendation, and a bipartisan congressional agreement on a $34 million U.S. contribution to UNFPA, the Bush administration cut off all funding for the agency in July 2002. As a justification, the Administration invoked its interpretation of the Kemp-Kasten amendment, a little-known provision that was first applied to foreign aid appropriations bills in 1985. Kemp-Kasten prohibits foreign aid funding for any organization that "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization,” as determined by the President.
The Administration’s decision to apply Kemp-Kasten to UNFPA funding was based on false accusations made by the Population Research Institute (PRI)—a small, extremist organization that opposes all forms of contraception—that UNFPA supports forced abortion and sterilization in China. The claims were refuted by four separate investigative teams, including one sent by the U.S. Department of State. All four teams recommended the reinstatement of UNFPA funding, stating that, contrary to PRI’s accusations, UNFPA was playing a vital role in efforts to end coercive population control measures in China. Nevertheless, the Bush administration continued to withhold funding to them – and no other UN agency.
After the initial funding freeze in 2002, the Bush Administration blocked the release of funds Congress intended for UNFPA six more times since July 2002—preventing nearly $200 million from being used for UNFPA's work.
Throughout the Bush Administration’s opposition to UNFPA, supporters in Congress attempted to make changes in law to ensure a contribution to this UN agency, though these efforts failed to be enacted into law.
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