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Trump funding cuts to UNFPA could affect Caribbean

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By Alphea Saunders Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, April 10, 2017    

 
 

Donald Trump (Photo: AFP)

 
 

 

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has dismissed claims by the United States Government that it supports, or participates in the management of a programme of forced abortion in China, the reason given for deep funding cuts to one of the UN’s key agencies.

The UNFPA pushed back against the Trump Administration’s announcement that the US would no longer fund any of its work worldwide, declaring: “All of its (UNFPA) work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination. Indeed, United Nations member states have long described UNFPA’s work in China as a force for good.”

The US State Department said it would withhold over $32.5 million in financial support for this year because the UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation” in China. The move marks a step in the Administration’s promise to make major cuts to United Nations funding by executive orders. On March 30, 2017, the Administration informed Congress of its intention to cut the funding to UNFPA, saying those funds would instead go towards “other family planning, maternal and reproductive health activities”.The US, was in 2016, the fourth-largest donor to UNFPA.

For Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, which have benefited significantly from the work of the UNFPA, this withdrawal of funding could have serious implications, especially in the area of reducing teenage pregnancy, which has contributed heavily to the poverty levels in the region where 20 per cent of women have had at least one child by the age of 19 years, leading to burden on already strained social welfare systems. The last survey on reproductive health carried out by Jamaican authorities in 2008 show that there were 72 births per 1,000 women in the 15-19 age group.In its response to the news of the funding cut, the UNFPA noted that it had long partnered with the US as one of its founding member countries to protect and promote the reproductive health and rights of women and girls globally and that this support by successive US governments has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities.

“With previous United States contributions, UNFPA was combatting gender-based violence and reducing the scourge of maternal deaths in the world’s most fragile settings in areas of conflict and natural disasters, including Iraq, Nepal, Sudan, Syria, the Philippines, Ukraine and Yemen,” the UNDP stated, pointing out that the developing global humanitarian crises now give even greater cause for concern.

The UNFPA said it was therefore disappointed by the move by the US Government, but looked forward to continuing its work with the US to “restore our strong partnership to save the lives of women and girls globally, within the framework of the global development goals, thereby leaving no one behind”.

The UNFPA supports reproductive health care for women and youth in more than 150 countries, and the health of pregnant women, especially the millions who face life-threatening complications each year, the agency said.

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