US stops over Shs 116 trillion funding to UNFPA

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The US State Department has announced it is ending funding for the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), the international body’s agency focused on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries. 

A statement by the State Department dated April 4 says it is withholding $32.5m (Shs116b)  in funding for the 2017 Fiscal Year because the UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation.

“This determination was made based on the fact that China’s family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilisation, and UNFPA partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies,” the State Department statement referred to as the Kemp-Kasten Amendment dated April 4 reads in part.

“The money that had been allocated to the UNFPA for the Fiscal Year 2017 will be “transferred and reprogrammed to the Global Health Programmes account,” the state department statement reads.

The statement says the funds it was withholding would be transferred to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to support family planning, maternal and reproductive health activities.

A statement signed by the executive director UNFPA, Dr Babatunde Osotomehin dated April 4, says it regrets the US decision to end funding basing on an “erroneous claim” that the agency supports coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in China.

“UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination. Indeed, United Nations member states have long described UNFPA’s work in China as a force for good and our work does not break any US laws.,” reads a statement by Dr Osotomehin.

“The support we received over the years from the government and people of the United States has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, and especially now in the rapidly developing global humanitarian crises,” the statement adds.

Dr Osotomehin explained that with previous United States contributions, UNFPA was combatting gender-based violence and reducing the scourge of maternal deaths in the world’s most fragile settings, in areas of conflict and natural disasters, including Iraq, Nepal, Sudan, Syria, the Philippines, Ukraine and Yemen.

The withdrawal of funding to UNFPA follows US president Donald Trump’s proposed 28 per cent budget reduction for diplomacy and foreign aid including an unspecified reduction in financial support for the United Nations and its agencies, announced last month.

This comes after Mr Trump in January reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy that withholds US funding for international organisations that perform abortions or provide information about abortion.

Ms Dora Byamukama, the executive director Law Uganda, a civil rights group, while speaking to the press at the Global UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme to end FGM and child marriages [one of the programmes to be funded] said the withdrawal of funding from UNFPA is going to see many programmes being implemented under UNFPA stall.

She said the withdrawal of funding to UNFPA is likely to raise further questions about how deep those cuts will eventually go throughout the organisation, where the United States is the top donor.

Ms Byamukama said the decision is likely to stall good UNFPA programmes like helping women and young people to access sexual and reproductive services, including family planning, preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions as well as supporting maternal health. 

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