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Letter to President Bush

Urging him to Fully Fund the United Nations Population Fund for Fiscal Year 2002

George W. Bush, President of the United States

Via Facsimile: 202-456-2461

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to urge you to fully fund the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) in the amount of $34 million – the sum appropriated for fiscal year (FY) 2002 in a bi-partisan agreement reached by Congress last month. The United States must continue its support for UNFPA’s vital efforts to save women’s lives around the world, and particularly its current efforts to provide life-saving care for women in Afghanistan.

This fall your administration highlighted the importance of UNFPA’s work on behalf of women’s reproductive health in Afghanistan. On October 26, 2001, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky formally announced at the National Foreign Policy Conference for Leaders of Non-Governmental Organizations that $600,000 of the special assistance you initiated for Afghanistan was being allocated to UNFPA for its humanitarian assistance to Afghan women. This was in addition to the millions of dollars your administration provided to UNFPA through regular FY 2001 appropriations. We simply ask you to continue this support.

The U.S. has made numerous pledges during international conferences to significantly increase foreign assistance for reproductive health and family planning; however, it has yet to live up to these commitments. Whereas funding UNFPA at the $34 million level is a step in the right direction, a decision to limit this funding – or worse, to defund UNFPA entirely – would represent a significant default by the U.S. on its international commitments.

As you are aware, according to a recent State Department report, over the last several years the Taliban has "perpetrated egregious acts of violence against women, including rape, abduction, and forced marriage." The current state of reproductive health of Afghan women is deplorable: "Afghanistan has the world's second worst rate of maternal death during childbirth. About 16 out of every 100 women die giving birth." Furthermore, of Afghan women who have been displaced, about 66,000 are pregnant, and some 10,000 have high-risk pregnancies requiring emergency health care.

UNFPA’s efforts in Afghanistan and throughout the world seek to reduce maternal and infant mortality by strengthening basic essential obstetric care and providing training and educational materials for midwives. For example, the Fund is addressing safe motherhood in Afghanistan by providing clean delivery equipment and supplies such as simple home delivery kits, which consist of a plastic sheet, a clean razor for cutting the umbilical cord and a piece of string for tying the umbilical cord. UNFPA is also providing care and prevention for reproductive tract infections and HIV prevention, supplies to protect essential hygiene, family planning services, support for border area hospitals receiving referrals with pregnancy and childbirth complications, and counseling for victims of trauma and violence.

It is imperative that UNFPA be able to maintain its efforts to save women’s lives throughout the world, and especially its efforts to help women in Afghanistan. We urge you to provide the full $34 million in funding that Congress has appropriated for UNFPA.