Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Natalia Kanem. Says advancing the health and rights of women and girls is key to peace, prosperity and sustainable development.
She was reacting to the $32.5 million the US is committing to the core resources that will help the UN sexual and reproductive health agency respond to the needs of women and girls across the globe.
According to the UNFPA chief, “US funds will enable UNFPA to save and transform many, many lives.”
Unrestricted core funding enables UNFPA to programme strategically and effectively, sustain and expand its presence in more than 150 countries including in humanitarian crises and help build capacities of government and partners.
Flexible core funding is key to helping UN agency fulfill its mandate of zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030, as unrestricted funds can be deployed rapidly to wherever the needs on the ground are most dire.
Already, COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the health and well-being of women and girls the world over. From disrupting family planning supply chains to restricting access to health care facilities, safe spaces and in-person counselling services to trapping women at home with abusers to school closures that may never see young students return, the pandemic has impeded progress in advancing the rights of women and girls.
Core funding allows programmes to pivot – distributing personal protective equipment or switching to mobile and telehealth services or disseminating information on shelters and legal aid via messaging apps.
And in a world where natural disasters are becoming ever more frequent and forceful, UNFPA helps individuals build resiliency in the face of climate crises.
In 2019, core funding and other support averted 47,000 maternal deaths, 14 million unintended pregnancies and over 3.9 unsafe abortions.
It also saved more than 200,000 girls from female genital mutilation. Still, every day more than 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth; more than 230 million women who want modern family planning aren’t using it; and one in five females over 15 has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner in the last year.
The US’ promise “sends a powerful message to women and girls around the world that their rights matter”, UNFPA said in a statement.
Such numbers can seem just like that: nameless, faceless numbers. But those numbers have names, like Rima, the 5000th baby born at a UNFPA-supported clinic, established with significant US funding, in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp in 2016.
That is what core funding is: a lifeline, buffer against cruel winds, hope in challenging times.