Press Release

American Citizens Launch 34 Million Friends Campaigns to Support UNFPA

22 Aug 2002

UNITED NATIONS, New York - To close the funding gap created by the United States withholding of $34 million from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), American citizens have sprung into action with two independent grass-roots campaigns.

They have started to circulate separate email letters, hoping to reach "34 million friends", urging each to contribute $1 or more. Cheques have begun to arrive at UNFPA's office in New York. One person sent a cheque for $25,000 from the north-eastern State of Maine on Tuesday.

"This is an example of the commitment of the American people to be part of international efforts to improve the quality of life of families in developing countries, especially of women who are the immediate beneficiaries of UNFPA-supported programmes," said Thoraya Obaid, UNFPA's Executive Director. "We wholeheartedly welcome this support from the American public for the joint efforts of many countries to provide health services and prevent diseases."

Lois Abraham of New Mexico, and Jane Roberts, of Redlands, California, initiated the independent and separate campaigns to help UNFPA continue its work to save the lives of women in developing countries. They are reaching out to their friends across the country and across the political spectrum to send a clear message: that providing family planning and reproductive health care to women in need is a humanitarian issue-not a political one-supported by millions of Americans.

"What does it mean in concrete terms to say that our government has denied funding to the United Nations Population Fund: It means that we are refusing treatment to 14-year-old girls condemned to life with fistula," said Ms. Abraham of New Mexico. "A reduced budget for UNFPA means that more women will struggle to deliver and take care of their babies because the help they need cannot be provided. We can't let that happen."

Ms. Roberts said: "At a time when America is looking for cooperation and asking much of the world, the Administration has chosen to shut the door to cooperation in this most basic endeavour, helping women plan their families and give birth safely."

The 133 members of the "Group of 77" developing countries in the United Nations have declared that the loss of the $34 million in United States funding will harm the global effort to prevent HIV/AIDS and jeopardize programmes in developing countries where UNFPA's support is critical for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

Some of the programmes that would be affected include those to ensure safe delivery in eight rural districts in Kenya and improve emergency obstetric care in Burundi.

The $34 million could prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, nearly 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 serious maternal illness, as well as over 77,000 infant and child deaths.

Since 1995, overseas development assistance, including in the population field, has dropped by about 25 per cent. This is when the largest youth population in human history is reaching its reproductive years. They need education, health care and reproductive health care. One half of the 14,400 new HIV infections each day are to young people under 25. There still are 350 million women who do not have access to a full range of choices for family planning and almost one half of the world's mothers bear children without skilled help.

Contributions have been going to:

Chief, Resource Mobilization Branch

UNFPA

220 East 42nd Street

New York, NY 10017

or

The United States Committee for UNFPA

220 East 42nd Street, Suite 2800

New York, NY 10017

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UNFPA is the world's largest multilateral source of population assistance. Since it became operational in 1969, it has provided more than $5.6 billion in assistance to developing countries. The United Nations General Assembly has welcomed the Fund's contributions towards improving the quality of human life.

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