The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a critical partner in the effort to expand and improve family planning services and contraceptive supplies. More than 180 countries contribute to UNFPA to help it work in some 150 poor nations—that’s three times more countries than the United States aids directly. UNFPA is a global leader in programs to:
Make Contraceptives More Available
UNFPA is the largest multilateral provider of contraceptive supplies. Access to safe, effective birth control helps individuals and couples avoid unwanted pregnancies, bring about wanted births, and determine the timing of pregnancies and the number of children in their families. It also slows the rapid population growth that contributes to poverty and environmental degradation. Today, there are at least 214 million women in the developing world who would like to either prevent or delay pregnancy, but are not using contraceptives. These women experience nearly 75 million unplanned pregnancies each year.
Provide Supplies to Ensure Safe Childbirth and Emergency Care
In much of the developing world, childbirth brings serious risks to both the mother and child. Every year, more than 300,000 women die from pregnancy related causes. UNFPA supports safe motherhood interventions as part of its commitment to reproductive health. Between 2009 and 2015, UNFPA helped train more than 80,000 midwives in over 100 countries. Additionally, UNFPA is leading the effort to ensure that hospitals and health clinics have proper supplies to provide life-saving care to women facing difficult pregnancies and deliveries.
Prevent and Treat Obstetric Fistula
UNFPA is helping to lead the Campaign to End Fistula in more than 50 countries. Obstetric fistula is a debilitating condition that can leave women incontinent and shunned by their communities. Fistula is both preventable and treatable, but continues to plague millions of women throughout the developing world. From 2003-2016, at least 70,000 women with the devastating birth injury received surgical repair with assistance from UNFPA.
Offer Critical Services in Humanitarian Crises
UNFPA is the global leader in responding to the unique needs of women following natural disasters and other humanitarian crises. It is currently on the ground in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, offering safe delivery kits, emergency delivery services, and access to contraception to the millions of people affected by the refugee crisis. UNFPA is on the ground after nearly all major natural disasters, such as the devastating 2006 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the 2012 floods in the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of women’s and children’s lives have been saved by UNFPA’s quick response to disaster situations.
Eliminate the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)
Every year, millions of women and girls face the prospect of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C), while 200 million worldwide have already undergone the practice. Since 2008, UNFPA has worked in partnership with UNICEF on a Joint Program on Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting. The program combats FGM/C by educating citizens about its harmful consequences, engaging government leaders and local officials, motivating religious leaders to protect women’s health, and educating and encouraging journalists to report on the issue. The program currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives. As a result of this international campaign, thousands of communities across 15 countries have publicly declared their abandonment of FGM/C. With the support of UNFPA and other UN agencies, 13 countries have passed legislation banning FGM—including, in 2015, Nigeria and The Gambia—and have developed national policies against the practice.
Promote Human Rights and End Coercion
UNFPA insists on voluntary family planning programs and fights against policies that limit the number of children a woman can have and when she can have them. The agency condemns practices such as coercive abortion or sterilization. It was a leading voice against the one-child policy in China and was the first international organization to speak out against the coercive practices in the country. In addition, UNFPA developed pilot programs in China that were contingent on the government eliminating coercive tactics and allowing for outside, independent monitoring of the human rights conditions in the country. The programs expanded choice and voluntarism, and within a few years rapidly spread from the pilot program areas to much of the nation. It is inarguable that UNFPA’s efforts were one of the primary reasons for China’s abandonment of the policy.
Raise the Status of Girls and Eliminate Sex-Selective Abortion
Prenatal sex selection occurs because of gender inequality, sex discrimination, and a cultural preference for sons. UNFPA is working with other agencies, such as UNICEF, to address the harmful attitudes that lead to sex-selective abortions. They are doing what works: broad and integrated county-level public education campaigns to promote gender equality that involve opinion leaders and those shaping cultural norms. The project also addresses structural issues underlying gender discrimination—in particular, a widespread preference for sons. Such an approach has been shown to bring more positive results than simply passing laws banning sex-selection.
The United States and UNFPA
The United States was integral to the beginning of UNFPA operations in 1969, and a leading supporter during the agency’s first 15 years. The United States has since remained on UNFPA’s Executive Board and has historically helped shape UNFPA programs and priorities. U.S. financial support to UNFPA is in keeping with the United States’ historic leadership role in promoting the rights of women and its commitment to helping countries develop to their fullest potential. No economically developed country in the world excludes women from public participation, making UNFPA’s work an important partner in achieving our common goals of ending poverty and promoting development.