Remarks by Ambassador Rick Barton, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, at the UNFPA Executive Board Meeting at the United Nations

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
August 31, 2010


Mr. President, thanks for this morning’s helpful presentation.

In conflicts and natural disasters, access to reproductive health services and commodities is a question of life and death. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to maternal and child health, requires us to address the comprehensive health needs of refugees, internally displaced persons, and other populations affected by conflicts and natural disasters. According to UNCHR, there were 43.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2009, the highest number since the mid-1990s. Of these, 15.2 million were refugees; 4.8 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s mandate, and 27.1 million internally displaced persons—75 per cent of which are women, children or young people.

Too often, sexual and reproductive health has been over-looked during emergencies and natural disasters. Our common goal must be to ensure rapid, reliable access to reproductive health services and commodities. Lasting recovery cannot be achieved without provision of and sustained support for the essential needs of women and girls, including reproductive health commodities, such as family planning and safe birthing kits, or medical and psycho-social support to recover from the trauma of rape and other forms of gender based violence. From relief to recovery, UNFPA’s efforts to promote the health of women and children are an essential aspect of multilateral humanitarian response efforts.

The United States has carefully reviewed the recent Thematic Evaluation of UNFPA’s Humanitarian Response and recognizes the efforts of the Humanitarian Response Branch to provide support in emergencies. We note the Fund’s achievement in developing training tools for implementing the Minimum Initial Services Package (MISP) to reduce reproductive health related morbidity and mortality and we commend UNFPA and its partners for the development of the 2009 manual, Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings.

However, in light of the increasing number and complexity of humanitarian crises throughout the world, we encourage the Fund’s leadership to intensify progress on mainstreaming emergency preparedness and response into all relevant work of the organization. Though steps have been taken, implementation of reproductive health programs varies greatly from one emergency to the next. In order to better plan, carry out, and evaluate its humanitarian efforts, we urge UNFPA leadership to build managerial and technical capacity at Headquarters and across regional offices, refine strategic frameworks, develop a viable Fund-wide commodity logistics policy, and design and use realistic and measurable indicators to keep track of the success and impact of interventions. We further encourage UNFPA to translate its global level commitment to gender based violence into effective country level coordination within the cluster system.

The ICPD conference in Cairo marked the first time the international community collectively recognized the importance of quality reproductive health care for refugees and women living in crisis situations. By building its operational capacity and increasing its humanitarian leadership, UNFPA will help ensure that reproductive health receives the necessary attention, resources, and coordination.

The U.S. is committed to working collaboratively with UNFPA, other organizations and member states to protect and promote the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls around the world, including those affected by conflicts and natural disasters.
Thank you.


PRN: 2010/170