US revokes funding for UN family planning body

4 Apr 17

The US has pulled its funding for a United Nations body focused on family planning and reproductive health, it emerged today.


In a letter to Bob Corker, chair of the US senate foreign relations committee, the US State Department said the United Nations population fund (UNFPA) would receive no future funding because it “supports or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or voluntarily sterilisation”.

UNFPA refuted what it described as an “erroneous claim”, stating all its work promotes human rights and the freedom to make decisions without coercion or discrimination.

“The support we received over the years from the government and people of the US has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, and especially now in the rapidly developing global humanitarian crises,” a statement on its website said.

The UN agency said it aims to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. It also targets issues such as gender-based violence.

According to data on its website, UNFPA received just under $76m from the US in 2015, making the country is third biggest donor after the UK and Sweden. It spends around 61.5% of its budget on integrated sexual and reproductive health services.

Nicola Jones, principal research fellow at UK think-tank the Overseas Development Institute, said the move was “extremely concerning” considering the agency’s “critical role” in supporting maternal health and family planning services globally, including in high risk environments.

“This withdrawal of funding will place at risk the UNFPA’s essential role as champion for ending early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, two practices that jeopardise the health and futures of millions of girls annually,” she continued.

She also highlighted the “key difference” UNFPA has played in tackling sexual and gender-based violence, and to citizens’ daily well-being via support to governments carrying out national population and housing censuses, which inform investment decisions.

The move comes after US president Donald Trump reinstated the global gag rule – a policy that stipulates US aid funding cannot go to organisations that carry out, or even provide information on, abortions. This has been revoked and reinstated by successive presidents since it was first introduced in 1984.

Trump went further than other presidents had done in the past however, with the policy now covering US health aid “furnished by all departments or agencies”. Previously it had only been applied to USAID, the US aid agency, and the State Department.

In 2015, the US’ aid for reproductive health and general health came to a total of $9.4bn. 

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