UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

96-03: Dispatches -- News from UNFPA, No. 6, March 1996



DISPATCHES is a monthly bulletin dedicated to the activities of

the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It is published in

English, French, and Spanish by the Information and External

Relations Division and is available free of charge from UNFPA

offices worldwide.

The designations employed and presentation of material in

DISPATCHES do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever

on the part of UNFPA concerning the legal status or authority of

any country, territory, city, or area or the determination of its

frontiers or boundaries. Views expressed are the authors' and

sources' own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or

policy of the Fund. All material is checked for accuracy as

received from source; all enquiries should be addressed to the

source/further information address provided at the end of each

item. Material may be freely reproduced; credit and copies of

reproduced material would be appreciated.

We invite colleagues from UNFPA and cooperating organizations to

submit articles about UNFPA-assisted programmes and projects,

accounts of lessons learned from past and ongoing work, and

anecdotes from their country or area of work. These should be

sent to:

DISPATCHES, c/o IERD, UNFPA, 220 East 42nd Street, 23rd floor,

New York, NY 10017, USA. Telephone: (212) 297-5022. Fax: (212)

557-6416. Internet: <aslam@unfpa.org>, <ohaire@unfpa.org>,



In this issue:

ICPD implementation: Difficult times ahead

Executive Board decisions

Doctors' responsibilities


Uganda: FGM breakthrough

Kapchorwa District - UNFPA is spearheading a local initiative to

eliminate female genital excision among the Sabiny people, whose

remote villages cling to mountain slopes on the border with


     The community has made national and regional headlines over

the years for its strict adherence to the tradition of excision

as a rite of passage into womanhood. In the early 1990s, attempts

to enforce compliance with international health and human rights

norms created a backlash: Local women who had evaded the custom

embraced the blade as an act of resistance to cultural


     Where outsiders have failed, the community is now


     In January, the Chairman of the local Elders' Association

proposed replacing the practice with a symbolic gift-giving while

preserving the singing, dancing, and other traditional

festivities which mark a girl's initiation as a full-fledged

member of the community. Coming as it does from a custodian of

community culture, his proposal has nurtured discussion of how

best to honour cultural values while altering the rituals they

express. The discussion is far from academic: Community members

are tackling the practical details of replacing excision with

some form of gift-giving as well as the essential details of

making sure that the new cultural norm is observed.

     Local authorities and media attribute the breakthrough to

REACH, the UNFPA-sponsored Reproductive, Educative, And Community

Health programme, which provides a forum for information and

discussion among local community and political leaders, health

professionals, parents, and adolescents themselves.

     REACH seeks to avoid fuelling unnecessary sensitivity about

the issue. Thus, for example, participants coined a new phrase

for FGM: "female genital cutting." The term "female circumcision"

was rejected as a misleading euphemism, but "female genital

mutilation" was thought to imply excessive judgement by outsiders

as well as insensitivity toward individuals who have undergone


     The programme also offers a reproductive health package

including training for traditional birth attendants and

reproductive health and family planning services and peer

education for parents and adolescents.

     Sabiny boys undergo circumcision and girls, excision in

December of every even-numbered year. William Cheborion, Chairman

of the Kapchorwa Elders' Association, closed the first REACH

community workshop in January by encouraging community members to

gather this coming December to recognize the season of

initiation. "The occasion of the Sabiny girl becoming a woman

needs celebration," he said, "but when it's time for the cutting,

you just go home."

     When others suggested a symbolic, more benign blood-letting

ritual, Cheborion remarked: "There has already been too much


     As Elaine Eliah, a correspondent for [The East African], a

newspaper circulated in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda noted,

Cheborion's "pleas were perhaps the most significant words

uttered throughout the entire workshop. Never before had a

recommendation for change come from within the Sabiny community

itself, especially from such an esteemed source. With Cheborion's

sanction, and his heartfelt endorsement of a pain-free initiation

for Kapchorwa's girls, the possibility of change feels closer

than ever. As if to second Cheborion's recommendation,

Parliamentarian Peter Kamuron committed to hosting an initiation

party for his two daughters this December. He plans to gift them

each a cow."

-Source/further information from: Francois Farah, Country

Director, UNFPA, 15B Clement Hill Road, P.O. Box 7184, Kampala,

Uganda. Fax: (041) 236645.


ICPD:  Difficult times ahead

Washington - Population institutions fear that "devastating"

funding cuts announced by the United States will jeopardize

implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, and that

increases made by other countries will be insufficient to offset

the loss. They warn that, contrary to the stated intentions of

those wielding the budget axe, the cuts will result in a dramatic

increase in unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

     Stop-gap legislation passed by the US Congress to keep the

US government running during a budget impasse effectively reduces

US funding for family planning and reproductive health programmes

overseas from US$547 million in 1995 to around US$72 million for

this fiscal year.

     In addition to limiting spending, the legislation imposes

unprecedented restrictions on USAID. The agency is now barred

from committing any money before 1 July and will only be allowed

to make commitments a month at a time over the following 15

months. USAID officials say the restrictions will complicate

attempts at long-term planning. They add that while they grapple

with as much as a 35 per cent reduction in overall funding, the

resources available to them for population assistance this fiscal

year have effectively been reduced to 14 per cent of the amount

appropriated last year.

     "Even allowing for some funds still in the 'pipeline'...the

cut is devastating," said Jeannie Rosoff, president of the Alan

Guttmacher Institute.

     Population programmers say the cuts will have a particularly

dramatic effect in developing countries because of the key role

played by USAID and the NGOs it supports worldwide. They say they

fear UNFPA and other major collaborators will not be able to make

up for the loss. They note that many developing countries

themselves and several key donors -- including Denmark, Germany,

Japan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom -- have made

significant funding increases this year to fulfil their

commitment to ICPD implementation. Nevertheless, "we don't expect

overall funding in the field to recover from this setback," said

Stirling Scruggs, director of UNFPA's Information & External

Relations Division.

     The anti-family planning riders attached to the legislation

were "encouraged by the Christian Coalition and anti-abortion

groups," according to George Moffett of the [Christian Science


     "What we did is bar access to family planning services to

approximately 17 million couples, most of them living in

unimaginable poverty," said Republican Senator Mark Hatfield, an

opponent of the legislation. "I intend to do what I can to

rectify this situation as soon as possible."

     "More than 10 million unintended pregnancies could result

annually," said Population Action International's Sally Ethelston

of the cuts. "That could mean at least 3 million abortions, at

least half a million infant and child deaths, and tens of

thousands of maternal deaths."

     The cuts come amid deficit-reduction measures which include

a 30 per cent reduction in overall bilateral US development aid

to countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the


Sadik's appeal

     Speaking on these issues last month in Washington, DC, at

the Conference of religious leaders on Women, Poverty, and

Population, UNFPA Executive Director Nafis Sadik said: "Voices

are heard today advising America to go into isolation, to

interpret national interest in the narrowest possible way. If

these forces can successfully be opposed, America will reaffirm

its own beginnings and enhance its destiny. America will grow in

stature, in moral leadership, and in practical influence in the


     In what Yvette Collymore of Inter Press Service termed "one

of her most direct appeals yet to politicians and legislators

here," Dr. Sadik said: "For thirty years, you have led the way to

action in the area of population and development. American

leaders were among the first to state that there is a link

between population and poverty; American women have led the fight

for autonomy and equality. America was the driving force behind

setting up UNFPA; America has historically been the biggest

supporter of population and development programmes, and it was

American leadership above all which drove the Cairo process along

and brought it to a successful conclusion. Now the world looks

again to America for leadership. We look to you to confirm your

support for the United Nations process, to make good the pledges

made in Cairo and Beijing, to maintain your programme of foreign

assistance, and in the area of population and development...not

to turn your backs on the less fortunate people of the world,

among the poorest of whom are women."

- Sources: Executive Director's Statement to the Conference on

Women, Poverty, and Population, Washington, DC, 9 February 1996;

press clippings. Further information from: Information & External

Relations Division, UNFPA, 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY

10017, USA. Fax: (212) 557-6416.


Reproductive health: Doctors reminded of their responsibilities

Geneva - Obstetricians and gynaecologists are being reminded that

they have a responsibility to protect women's right to

reproductive health.

     The reminder comes from the WHO/FIGO (International

Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics) Task Force on Maternal

Health and Safe Motherhood, of which UNFPA is a member.

     Inspired by ICPD, the Task Force in September 1994 held a

workshop in Montreal, Canada on "Population and Human Rights:

Responsibilities of OB/GYNs." Since the Beijing women's

conference reaffirmed the reproductive health aspects of the ICPD

Programme of Action, the Task Force last November decided to

reiterate the recommendations of the Montreal workshop and to lay

plans for follow-up regional workshops. These are reportedly

being organized by FIGO.

     The Montreal workshop focussed on three main areas:

>    women's right to information and education about, and the

means to practise, family planning;

>    women's right to make decisions that affect their health

voluntarily and with a choice of options; and

>    the link between women's rights and their health.

     In their recommendations, summarized by the Task Force,

workshop participants emphasized the following:

>    Women have a right to information and education on the

procedures and treatments they might have to undergo and FIGO

should discourage practices that abuse women's rights.

>    It is important that adolescents should receive information,

counselling, and services regarding their reproductive health.

>    There is a need for obstetricians and gynaecologists to be

trained in communication and counselling skills, whether through

workshops run by national societies or by the inclusion of these

skills in the curricula of medical schools.

>    National societies should further the provision of

comprehensive reproductive health services. The interventions of

WHO's Mother-Baby Package were considered to be relevant to this,

with particular focus on emergency obstetric care. Other

important elements included the discouraging of female genital

mutilation, and counselling both on sexuality and for women who

are victims of violence.

     Earlier WHO/FIGO workshops included one in Rio de Janeiro in

1988, on "Women's Health and Safe Motherhood" and in Singapore in

1991, on "Women's Perspectives and Participation in Reproductive


- Sources: WHO/FIGO Task Force; Reproductive Health Branch.

Further information from: Reproductive Health Branch, Technical &

Evaluation Division, UNFPA, 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY

10017, USA. Fax: (212) 297-4915. A full report of the Montreal

workshop (Document WHO/FHE/FPP/95.112) is available from the

Division of Family Health, WHO, Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva 27,

Switzerland. Reports of the Rio and Singapore workshops are also

available from the same address.


Executive Board:  Contraceptive commodity programme passed

New York - UNFPA's Executive Board has approved a global

contraceptive commodity programme to be managed by the Fund. With

an initial capitalization of US$5 million, the programme is to be

an integral component of the Fund's overall work in

"strengthening reproductive health programmes, including family

planning and sexual health," according to Board documents.

     In decision 96/03, made on 19 January, the Board emphasized

that activities undertaken as part of the programme "should be

monitored carefully to ensure that they adhere to technical

standards of safety and quality."

     Under the terms of the decision, the Fund will have to

report on the programme's implementation annually, "paying

particular attention to the progress in strengthening national

capacities to deal with the logistical aspects of contraceptive

procurement." The Fund must also "engage in further appropriate

collaboration and coordination with other relevant United Nations

entities, in particular, the Inter-Agency Procurement Services

Office and the World Health Organization, active in the fields of

procurement and reproductive health."

     The programme grew out of UNFPA's Contraceptive Requirements

and Logistics Management Needs in Developing Countries

initiative. It aims to anticipate demand and facilitate prompt

action to avert disruptions in contraceptive supplies; achieve

economies of scale and lower costs to recipient countries; ensure

the quality of contraceptives provided by the Fund; and build

national capacity in contraceptive procurement and logistics,

with a view to self-reliance.

South-South cooperation

     The Board also approved the arrangements outlined in

document DP/FPA/1996/11 to recruit and assign project personnel

to the Secretariat of Partners in Population and Development, an

intergovernmental organization of 10 developing countries. In

decision 96/09, the Board invited the organization to consider

broadening its scope "by actively involving other developing

countries as well as countries with economies in transition" in

its programmes. UNFPA is to report to the Board in 1998 on the

activities and achievements of the initiative, including the

Fund's role in them. At that time, the Board will consider

UNFPA's continued involvement beyond 1998.

     Other decisions of note to UNFPA include 96/05, on reporting

to ECOSOC, 96/06, on documentation, and 96/07, on UNDP successor


     The UNFPA Strategy for Resource Allocation is due for

further consideration at this month's session of the Executive


- Source: "Decisions Adopted by the Executive Board of

UNDP/UNFPA, First Regular Session 1996, (15-19 January 1995, New

York)," Unedited Version, 19 January 1996. Further information

from: Executive Board, UN Liaison, & External Relations Branch,

Information & External Relations Division, UNFPA, 220 East 42nd 

Street, New York, NY 10017, USA. Fax: (212) 557-6416.





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