As the curtain is gradually being drawn on this 2020, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is appealing for $818 million, to reach 54 million women, girls and young people, including 35 million women of reproductive age, 29 million adolescents and young people, and over four million pregnant women in 68 countries.
UNFPA is the UN sexual and reproductive health agency. Its mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The agency supports reproductive health care for women and youth in more than 150 countries – which are home to more than 80 per cent of the world’s population
It also supports the health of pregnant women, especially the 1 million who face life-threatening complications each month, reliable access to modern contraceptives sufficient to benefit 20 million women a year, training of thousands of health workers to help ensure at least 90 per cent of all childbirths are supervised by skilled attendants, prevention of gender-based violence, which affects 1 in 3 women, abandonment of female genital mutilation, which harms 3 million girls annually, prevention of teen pregnancies, complications of which are the leading cause of death for girls 15-19 years old, efforts to end child marriage, which could affect an estimated 70 million girls over the next 5 years, delivery of safe birth supplies, dignity kits and other life-saving materials to survivors of conflict and natural disaster, and censuses, data collection and analyses, which are essential for development planning
UNFPA was created in 1969, the same year the United Nations General Assembly declared “parents have the exclusive right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.” The agency is calling for the realisation of reproductive rights for all and supporting access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services – including voluntary family planning, maternal health care and comprehensive sexuality education.
Since UNFPA started its work, the world has seen progress. While the number and rate of women dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth has been halved. Families are healthier. Young people are more connected and empowered than ever before, too many are still left behind. More than 760 million people are mired in extreme poverty. Sexual and reproductive health problems are a leading cause of death and disability for women in the developing world. Young people bear the highest risks of HIV infection and unintended pregnancy. Many millions of girls face the prospect of child marriage and other harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM).
Much more needs to be done to ensure a world in which all individuals can exercise their basic human rights, including those that relate to the most intimate and fundamental aspects of life. For instance, in 2018, UNFPA launched efforts to achieve three transformative results, ambitions that promise to change the world for every man, woman and young person:
Ending unmet need for family planning
Family planning is central to women’s empowerment and sustainable development. Today, more than 300 million women in developing countries are using contraception, but more than 214 million women who want to plan their births do not have access to modern family planning.
UNFPA works with governments and partners to promote universal access to quality, integrated sexual and reproductive health services. UNFPA also promotes comprehensive sexuality education and youth leadership, which empower young people to exercise autonomy, choice and participation with regard to their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Ending preventable maternal death
Everyone has the right to health, including women and mothers. Since 1990, maternal mortality has declined by 44 per cent. Still, some 830 women and adolescent girls die each day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 99 per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries – more than half in fragile and humanitarian settings.
UNFPA partners with governments and others to strengthen health systems, train health workers, educate midwives and improve access to the full range of reproductive health.
Ending gender-based violence and harmful practices
As the struggle for gender equality continues, violence against women and girls remains a global pandemic. One in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. And approximately one in four girls in the developing world is married before age 18.
UNFPA works to prevent and respond to gender-based violence through its work with policymakers, justice systems, health systems and humanitarian partners. UNFPA also focuses on eliminating harmful practices, including FGM and child marriage, and helps to engage men and boys to advance gender equality.
However, the overview of UNFPA’s Humanitarian Action 2021 highlights the needs and rights of women and adolescent girls in emergencies, which are often overlooked. It highlights the world’s biggest crises for women and girls.
Through this report, UNFPA emphasizes the need to adapt and integrate services for sexual and reproductive health (SRH), gender-based violence (GBV), and mental health and psychosocial support during COVID-19. UNFPA is also calling for more investment in local women-led organisations as well as youth organisations that work as frontline responders and change-makers. In addition, the appeal outlines how humanitarian assistance, sustainable development and peace-building are key pathways for recovery from COVID-19.
It also highlights the extraordinary cooperation and resourcefulness that allowed UNFPA, in 2020, to reach more than seven million women in 53 countries with SRH services; 4.4 million people with family planning supplies and services; and 2.8 million people with services to address GBV.
Women do not stop giving birth, and risks of gender-based violence increase during conflicts and disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored existing inequalities and the disproportionate impact of crises on women and girls. In response, UNFPA’s life-saving work is more important than ever.
The Humanitarian Action 2021 is UNFPA’s largest ever humanitarian appeal with an emphasis on the provision of integrated services for sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence prevention and response, and mental health and psychosocial support. UNFPA calls for more investment in local women-led organisations as well as youth organisations that work as frontline responders and change-makers. The appeal also outlines the importance of taking a coordinated approach for humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In collaboration with its partners and in solidarity with communities, UNFPA is adapting to evolving needs and innovating, based on data and evidence, to reach those most in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Extraordinary cooperation and resourcefulness in 2020 enabled us to reach more than 7 million women in 53 countries with sexual and reproductive health services, 4.4 million people with family planning supplies and services, and 2.8 million people with services to address gender-based violence.
Invest in women and girls in humanitarian crises
This film, produced by students at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in collaboration with the UNFPA Humanitarian Office, highlights the disproportionate impact of humanitarian crises on women and adolescent girls and the need for greater investment in their health, protection and leadership. The credits can be found at the end of the film.
It is anticipated that in 2021 UNFPA will respond to emergencies in over 68 countries, striving to bring safety, health and dignity to women, girls and young people.