Resumption of US funding will help boost women’s rights, says UN

UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid

27 January 2009 – The resumption of United States funding after a seven-year lull will augment efforts by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to improve the health and human rights of women, the agency’s head said today.

Last week, new US President Barack Obama announced that he will work with Congress to restore financial support for UNFPA, noting that his country will be joining 180 other donor nations in working towards slashing poverty, boosting the health of women and children, preventing HIV/AIDS and providing family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.

“President Obama’s actions send a strong message about his leadership and strategic vision to support causes that will promote peace and development, equity and dignity, equality for women and girls, and economic empowerment of the poor in all regions of the world,” Thoraya Obaid, the agency’s Executive Director, told reporters in New York.

She said that renewed US funding will allow UNFPA to continue making strides in the face of the current global financial crisis.

The Executive Director also praised the US Administration’s decision to revoke the so-called Mexico City policy, which banned Federal funds for organizations promoting or providing abortions.

Echoing Mr. Obama, she said that access to safe and effective family planning is one of the best methods to prevent unintended pregnancies.

“Being able to make decisions on the number and the spacing of children is the first step for women to make decisions about their lives and to participate in the decisions of the family, the community and thus the nation,” Ms. Obaid noted.

Much work remains to be done to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) that calls for improving maternal health and achieving universal access to reproductive health services by 2015, she said.

Efforts to reach these targets are the most under-funded, the UNFPA chief said, adding that the rate of death from pregnancy and childbirth has only dropped one per cent between 1990 and 2005.

Responding to journalists’ questions, she said that the US funds will be part of UNFPA’s core funding, over two-thirds of which is used in the least developed countries.

Programmes that will receive a boost from the US contributions include increasing emergency obstetric care; eliminating fistula, the debilitating injury of the reproductive system; and linking reproductive health services with HIV/AIDS programmes, Ms. Obaid said.


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