Thank you, Mr. President. Let me begin by thanking Executive Director Obaid for her excellent statement this morning and her long standing leadership at UNFPA.
The tragedy and ongoing crisis in Haiti is a poignant reminder for us all of how much we rely on the UN around the world to bring help and hope, and the difficult and dangerous situations in which UN staff are often engaged. As the response to the crisis continues, the United States will remain in close contact with UNFPA and other UN development and humanitarian organizations to ensure that all our efforts address the challenges of those most in need.
The United States remains fully engaged in promoting and expanding UNFPA’s vital work to save women’s lives.
We are pleased that UNFPA is working in approximately 150 countries to address the unmet need for family planning. UNFPA supports many programs dedicated to this critical goal, including for example, the African Union campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality (CARMMA). As of May of last year, 10 countries in Africa joined the campaign, aimed at dramatically reducing the number of women dying while giving birth.
The United States especially encourages UNFPA in its work to combat the scourge of gender based violence. This is a concern to many governmental and social entities, and must be addressed. We applaud UNFPA efforts to work with government, civil society, religious communities, and all levels of society on this.
We also encourage UNFPA to continue to expand its efforts with UNHCR and its partners to promote reproductive health, including family planning, in humanitarian assistance settings.
On January 8th, Secretary of State Clinton hosted an event to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development. In her speech, she stated that “There is no doubt in my mind that the work that was done and that commitments that were made in Cairo are still really the bulwark of what we intend to be doing and are expected to do on behalf of women and girls.” She expressed the Obama administration’s strong commitment to the goals of the ICPD and MDG5. Secretary Clinton described the connection between a woman’s reproductive health and her ability to lead a productive and fulfilling life. Secretary Clinton made clear that the U.S. government understands that the untapped potential of women and girls can drive economic growth, political progress, and global security.
To help achieve this, the United States increased its funding and support of family planning programs. The U.S. Congress recently appropriated more than $648 million in foreign assistance to family planning and reproductive health programs worldwide, including approximately $593 million in bilateral assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and $55 million for UNFPA in Fiscal Year 2010.
The new Global Health Initiative will address interrelated health challenges by integrating family planning, maternal health services, and HIV/AIDS screening and treatment so women receiving reproductive care will also receive HIV counseling and testing and will be referred to an HIV clinic if needed. We especially look forward to intensified coordination of country programs with UNFPA as part of the Global Health Initiative (GHI). Such coordination with other donors is one of the major principles for implementation of the GHI.
In addition, The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has made support for reproductive health and family planning a priority, expanding integration of HIV prevention, care and support, and treatment services with family planning and reproductive health services, so that women living with HIV can access necessary care, and so that all women know how to protect themselves from HIV infection.
In her January 8th remarks, Secretary Clinton reminded us, “…that expanding access to contraception helps only if women are empowered to use it, that protecting oneself from HIV is harder when one’s life depends on staying in a man’s good favor, and that all of the prenatal care in the world won’t protect a mother and child from an abusive home.” She also said “promoting women’s health and children’s health means improving the quality of their lives on many levels, and it also means reaching out to men and boys to encourage them to become advocates and allies.”
Secretary Clinton concluded her speech with the story of a young woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Caroline Ditina, who for years endured the shame, and ostracism caused by obstetric fistula. Eventually, Ms. Ditina found her way to a clinic supported by UNFPA, and finally received the surgery, care and emotional support she needed to heal. Two years ago, Ms. Ditina came to Washington and urged members of the U.S. Congress to support maternal health programs worldwide. She offered strong personal testimony to the effectiveness and value of the work of UNFPA.
UNFPA has long been at the forefront of empowering women with the information and knowledge needed to make decisions about one of the most important aspects of a woman’s life -- the health of herself and her family. The United States looks to UNFPA as a key partner in our efforts to increase worldwide access to reproductive health including family planning. We greatly value UNFPA’s long-term, international, and multilateral efforts to provide crucial, life saving family planning assistance where it is needed most.
Mr. President, we look forward to working with the Executive Board and our colleagues from around the world to enhance our strong regional and global partnerships in support of UNFPA’s mission to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries.
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