Hoping that UNFPA Jamaica will hang on in there

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

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days ago the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) issued a rather depressing press statement regretting the decision by the United States to deny any future funding for its life-saving work the world over.

The UNFPA said the decision was based on the erroneous claim that the international body "supports, or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation" in China.

The UN agency said it sternly refutes this claim, insisting that 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," the press statement said.

We continue to hold that countries reserve the right to make policy decisions that are in their own best interest. Moreover, political parties campaign on a slate of issues that are generally expected to be the subject of official policy, if the party is successful at the polls.

Anti-abortion sentiments run deep in the Republican Party, and the US decision to cut UNFPA funding is very likely one of the casualties. The UNFPA supports countries in "using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty, that every pregnant woman is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free from HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect".

In promoting safe births, UNFPA funds, certainly in the past, have gone to organisations that are working to reduce the number of young girls and women who seek back-street abortions which often end in death, in favour of legal, professionally done abortions which save the mothers’ lives.

Yet, we are not clear why UNFPA would wish to support any programme of "coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation" in China, given that China itself has seen the error of its ways in discriminating against girls, which has now resulted in not enough eligible women for the larger population of men.

Indeed, when looking at in the bigger picture, the work of the United Nations in general, and the UN Population Fund in particular, has contributed in immeasurable ways to the reduction of world poverty and the maintenance of peace among nations. If for no other reasons, the globe has a vested interest in seeing that the work continues.

Jamaica and the Caribbean have been major beneficiaries of the work of UNFPA, especially in reducing teenage pregnancy, which has contributed heavily to the poverty levels in a region where 20 per cent of women have had at least one child by the age of 19 years. A considerable percentage of adolescent girls become pregnant before the age of 15 years, straining already overburdened social services.

Truth be told, a withdrawal of funds by the US will constitute a severe blow to UNFPA, which acknowledges that US support over the years has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, and especially now in the rapidly developing global humanitarian crises. Indeed, America’s assistance has helped in combatting gender-based violence and reducing the scourge of maternal deaths in the world.

We can only hope that UNFPA Jamaica will find a way to manage without US funds.




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