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U.N. Decries Stagnant Funding For Population Goals

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2011 (IPS) - As the international community readies to cope with a rising world population of some seven billion people by the middle of this year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns that financial assistance for population-related activities has made no visible gains since 2008.

A strong upward trend – with 10.40 billion dollars in 2008 – stalled in 2009, remaining virtually at the same level, registering 10.39 billion dollars.

The 2008 figure was a historic high because it was the first time that population assistance by Western donors had surpassed 10 billion dollars, according to a U.N. report released here.

The funding levels for 2010 have been estimated slightly higher, at 10.5 billion dollars, with a projected figure of 10.8 billion dollars in 2011.

But neither of the two figures is deemed a significant increase in implementing the global population agenda.

In his 18-page report to the U.N. Commission on Population and Development (CPD), whose weeklong session concludes Friday, the secretary-general blames low funding on the global financial crisis. Given the uncertainty of how long the effects of the crisis will last, he predicts “the final figures for 2010 and 2011 may well be below those estimates.”

As a result, the Programme of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo, is in jeopardy, the secretary-general cautioned last week.

At the same time, he said, even the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which incorporate the ICPD Programme of Action, may fall short of the targets – specifically in reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health, including family planning.

According to the United Nations, one of the most urgent needs is to close a 24-billion-dollar gap to finance programmes to meet the needs of some 1.8 billion young people and 1.8 billion women of child-bearing age globally.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the new executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS that “investing in the health and rights of women and young people is not an expenditure, it is an investment in our future”.

He said far too many people continue to face discrimination, coercion and violence in making decisions about reproduction.

Some 215 million women in developing countries, who want to plan and space their births, do not have access to modern contraception.

Each year, he said, neglect of sexual and reproductive health results in an estimated 80 million unintended pregnancies, 22 million unsafe abortions, and 358,000 deaths from maternal causes, including 47,000 deaths from unsafe abortions.

“In a world of seven billion, and counting, we all have to count on each other,” he added.

Besides funding from Western donors, the report says developing countries themselves were able to raise about 29.8 billion dollars in 2009, primarily from domestic sources.

But the 2010 and 2011 figures are expected to follow the same pattern, increasing only to about 31 billion dollars in 2010 and about 34 billion dollars in 2011, according to the report.

The population package in need of funding consists of four components: family planning; reproductive health; preventing sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS; and basic research, data and population and development policy analysis.

Currently, UNFPA is the leading provider of U.N. assistance for population-related activities, supporting some 155 developing countries in 2009.

Since 1995, funding for family planning services has decreased in absolute dollar terms, when UNFPA began monitoring resource flows.

Although funding for reproductive health and basic research activities has increased, HIV/AIDS activities continue to receive by far the most population assistance, according to the report.

In 2009, about 36 percent of all domestic expenditures for population were on the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Geographically, sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the largest recipient of assistance, receiving about 70 percent of all aid going to the five regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Asia and North Africa and Eastern and Southern Europe.

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