Great news this week for UNFPA, the UN agency responsible for promoting and protecting reproductive health and ensuring safe motherhood in 140 countries worldwide. The agency has just announced that it received a record $360 million in 2006 contributions from 180 countries in total—the highest number of donor countries supporting the agency since 1969, when it started its work. In 1999, only 69 countries supported UNFPA. But today, in addition to top donors Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, the UK, Japan, and Denmark, every country in Latin America and the Caribbean, and every country in sub-Saharan Africa, pledged to support the agency.
Given current sexual and reproductive health realities worldwide, the money sure will come in handy. Over half a million women die from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes every year, the vast majority of them in developing countries. UNFPA provides safe motherhood kits, ensures that women have access to emergency obstetric care, advocates for better family planning services, and spearheads the global Campaign to End Fistula. UNFPA is active in Iraq, where reproductive health, like most other things, has recently spiraled into complete disaster—the U.S.-led war has all but destroyed the healthcare system, if women can even get themselves to a hospital amidst the constant sectarian fighting, bombings, and kidnappings. No wonder most of them are opting for premature caesarians or turning to unlicensed neighborhood midwives to give birth. Meanwhile, in sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute 58 percent of adults living with HIV/AIDS, and a staggering 76 percent of all HIV-positive young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are girls. UNFPA provides real HIV prevention services (as opposed to the ideologically motivated just-say-no sex ed the U.S. is currently flogging in 13 African countries) —especially for adolescents and youth, 14,000 of whom contract the virus every single day. UNFPA also helps out during natural and humanitarian disasters like the Tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan, and the genocide in Darfur.
I could go on, but you probably know where I'm going. Of the record number of countries that pledged support for UNFPA in 2006, one was conspicuously absent from the list. Hmmm…which country could it be? I'll give you a hint: this country is also one of only 17 countries worldwide that still hasn't ratified CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Still stumped? Another hint: this country is one of only two countries worldwide that hasn't ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the other is Somalia). Give up? All right, it's the United States of America—the defender of freedom worldwide, the richest nation on the Earth. And we didn't just shaft UNFPA in 2006, we've withheld our $34 million traditional annual contribution for five years running, ever since a certain someone took office and decided that this Virginia-based group had a more intimate knowledge of UNFPA's work than four separate investigative teams—including one dispatched by the U.S. State Department—not to mention the 180 UN member states who currently support the agency's work.
Isn't this Administration sick of being all alone defending an indefensible position, up to their ears in expert opinions to the contrary (ahem)? Luckily, the G-180 accepts individual members. Click here to contribute to UNFPA as a U.S. citizen.