The Recent History of U.S. Funding for UNFPA

More than 50 years ago, the United States was a driving force behind the creation of UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency. For decades, the U.S. was one of the largest contributors to UNFPA programs that help women have healthy pregnancies and safe births, enable couples to plan their families, and protect girls from child marriage and domestic violence. The U.S. contribution to UNFPA in the past also helped protect women’s and girl’s health, rights, and lives in war-torn parts of the world such as Yemen and Syria. 

UNFPA Yemen

The Trump-Pence Administration Withholds Funding

In 2017, however, the United States withdrew its support for UNFPA. This jeopardized programs in the world’s poorest countries and conflict-affected areas. In these areas, women are at greater risk of dying while giving life and becoming pregnant against their will. 

For the entirety of the Trump-Pence Administration, U.S. funding for UNFPA has been withheld. Despite Congressional requests, the Administration has not made exemptions to this funding ban for emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2016, the last year the United States funded UNFPA, UNFPA received nearly $70 million from the American government. At that time, the U.S. was the largest contributor to UNFPA’s programs to end gender-based violence in humanitarian settings. Additionally, that money went to programs that prevented mothers from dying in childbirth, protected girls from marriage, provided legal counsel and psychosocial care to survivors of gender-based violence, and empowered women with information on their rights and bodies. 

Now, without that funding, it is more difficult for UNFPA to meet the evolving and complex reproductive health needs of women and girls around the world. 

UNFPA Yemen

In Yemen, for example, the world’s largest humanitarian crisis is only growing more dire. Ongoing conflict, famine, cholera outbreaks, and now, COVID-19 have left more than 24 million people in need of humanitarian aid. This includes 1 million malnourished pregnant women who face potential fatal health outcomes without reproductive health care. In 2020, UNFPA was forced to close 75 percent of their facilities in Yemen due to lack of funding. With more funding, UNFPA could reach more women with lifesaving reproductive healthcare.  

Why has the United States Government withheld funding from UNFPA? 

The Trump-Pence Administration has incorrectly and without evidence invoked the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which bars organizations that provide or support coercive abortion or forced sterilization from receiving U.S. funding. The Administration has also never made clear the justifications for these serious claims. 

UNFPA Pakistan

All of UNFPA’s programming is based on voluntary care and human rights. UNFPA’s China program has a specific focus on gender equality. The Trump-Pence Administration alleges that UNFPA, simply by working in China, has supported coercive abortions and involuntary sterilizations. This is not true. 

UNFPA does not support or provide abortion and has condemned acts of coercion no matter where they occur. Though the Trump-Pence Administration has been invited to visit the UNFPA’s China office, the Administration has not done so. Previous U.S. delegations have found UNFPA’s program to uphold human rights and to be a force for good.  

UNFPA relies entirely on the voluntary donations of governments, intergovernmental organizations, foundations, the private sector, and individuals. Friends of UNFPA, as the official nonprofit for UNFPA, facilitates donations from generous individuals like you!  

Having the public recognition and financial support of the United States government is extremely important for carrying out UNFPA’s work. Direct American support makes it possible for UNFPA to secure the rights of millions more women and girls. Indirectly, American support expands the reach of UNFPA’s mission and can inspire others to give or enact change in their communities.  

UNFPA Sierra Leone/Salim Kamara

Women and girls should have access to reproductive healthcare, no matter what.  

Thankfully, individual donors and donor governments have stepped up to help fill the funding gap left by the Trump-Pence Administration. With your continued support, we can ensure that women and girls have the reproductive healthcare that is their right. 

Your support helps UNFPA care for women and girls when they need it most.


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