Markey, Colleagues urge President Obama to continue support for United Nations population fund

Agency Plays a Critical Role in Providing Health Care to Millions and Addressing the World’s Most Urgent Humanitarian Crises

 

Washington (January 27, 2015) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and 19 Senators in a letter sent today urging President Obama to continue strong U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA is the largest provider of family planning and reproductive health services, providing life-saving health care for men, women and children in more than 150 countries that are home to nearly 80 percent of the world’s population.

 

The Senators wrote, “U.S. funding for UNFPA supports a range of global activities including the provision of voluntary family planning information, education and services, training and deployment of skilled birth attendance and midwives, and work to help end the harmful practices of female mutilation and child marriage.”

 

The agency also plays a vital role in addressing the world’s most urgent humanitarian crises. UNFPA is the lead agency in charge of contact tracing to help stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa at its source, and has provided protective equipment like gloves, face masks, aprons and disinfectant to workers fighting Ebola.

 

In addition, UNFPA is active on the ground assisting refugees in Syria and neighboring countries by creating safe havens for women and girls to escape violence, providing activities to help make young people less susceptible to recruitment by extremists groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and delivering “dignity kits” filled with basic health and hygiene products like soap, headscarves and undergarments.

 

The Senators continued, “U.S. support for UNFPA is cost-effective, saves lives and supports our broader diplomatic, developmental and national security priorities.”

 

The letter was also signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Al Franken (D-MN).

 

The full text of the letter follows:

 

January 27, 2015

 

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

Thank you for your longstanding commitment to reproductive health and family planning programs for women across the globe. We write today to ask for your continued leadership to ensure the United States remains a strong supporter of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

 

As you know, UNFPA is the largest multilateral provider of family planning and reproductive health services—providing life-saving care for men, women, children and families in more than 150 countries that are home to approximately 80 percent of the world’s population. 

 

U.S. funding for UNFPA supports a range of global activities including the provision of voluntary family planning information, education and services, training and deployment of skilled birth attendants and midwives, and work to help end the harmful practices of female genital mutilation and child marriage. For example, Niger has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world with approximately 75 percent of girls married by the age of 18. UNFPA, in coordination with the government of Niger, has implemented a program to empower young women and girls by providing education, mentoring, and other support services to help them understand their rights and create community dialogues to combat the practice of child marriage.

 

Additionally, U.S. funding helps sustain UNFPA’s increasingly vital role in the world’s most delicate humanitarian settings. As the lead agency in charge of contact tracing in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, UNFPA is directly involved in helping stop Ebola at its source. UNFPA is also working to provide protective equipment like gloves, face masks, aprons, and disinfectant to frontline workers who are at the greatest risk in Ebola-affected areas.

           

UNFPA is also active on the ground in Syria and in neighboring countries—assisting refugees by providing safe havens for women and girls to escape gender-based violence, providing activities for young people to reduce their vulnerability to recruitment by extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and delivering “dignity kits” comprised of basic health and hygiene provisions like soap, headscarves, and undergarments. In fact, for much of 2014, UNFPA was the only agency providing normal childbirth delivery services in Za’atri camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, where there have been no maternal deaths in more than 2,000 deliveries.

 

We are disappointed that despite UNFPA’s critical work around the world, a number of misperceptions about the organization persist. That is why we believe it is important to underscore that UNFPA does not promote abortion as a method of family planning and does not condone coercion in family planning, coercive abortion or forced sterilizations.

 

U.S. support for UNFPA is cost-effective, saves lives and supports our broader diplomatic, development and national security priorities. As such, we urge you to continue strong U.S. support for UNFPA in fiscal year 2016.

 

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

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