Monday, November 27, 2006

Achieving Results in Foreign Assistance- Case Study UNFPA

Event Title: Achieving Results in Foreign Assistance -– Case Study UNFPA
Sponsor: UNFPA
Location: Rayburn Building
Date: Thursday, October 5, 2006
Time: 11am - 1pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 40
Intern Attending: Kristin Broyhill

Speakers: Myriam Conejo, Huasi Health Center in Ecuador; Gamilah Ghalib Al Sharai, Director of Program and Projects Sector at Al-Saleh Social Foundation for Development in Yemen.

“UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programs to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.”

Ms. Conejo and Ms. Al Sharai work in their respective countries with organizations supported by the UNFPA which focus on family planning, sexual health and reproductive education. On their journey to New York City, to receive a recognition award for their dedication to and promotion of these important issues, they spoke about their organizations, the obstacles encountered, and the impact of these programs on their societies.

With a growing population in Ecuador, the tradition of dividing land between children to cultivate and live off of is no longer sustainable. Already plots are too small, yet families are forced to support eight to ten children. With over 87 percent of the 60 percent of Ecuadorians who live in poverty being indigenous, the lack of land and high number of children perpetuate and increase poverty levels. To confront this issue, Ms. Conejo, with UNFPA funds, reopened Hausi Health Center, located in a rural area of Ecuador, heavily populated with indigenous persons. The clinic'’s goal is to provide healthcare and treatment to individuals in a manner which combines Western and indigenous medical methods. Reproductive health and education are important aspects of this care. Many families in the community access the health center for family planning services.

Hausi Health Center works with men and women, providing pre and post-natal care, access to contraceptives, reproductive education, STD'’s and family planning. With the typical marriage age being as young as fourteen, Ms. Conejo and her colleagues have also created culturally appropriate sexual education programs for local schools.

The center, built for only a few thousand, has 12,000 patients. Since 1994, with pregnancy health education and family planning promotion, the use of contraceptives among women have increased 30 percent and deaths during childbirth at the clinic have so far this year, for the first time, been at zero.

Hausi faces many difficulties in mainstreaming family planning because of religious and cultural issues. These include the stance of the Catholic Church regarding birth control and the willingness of men to allow their wives to use birth control, fearing their wife will be unfaithful when they migrate for work. Despite these challenges, the Ministry of health has given its support to the clinic and has publicly recognized the importance of family planning services.

In Yemen, Ms. Al Sharai operates a family care center, again with the support of UNFPA, which tackles health problems focusing on prenatal care for women and family planning possibilities. With over half of its population in rural areas, citizens have little or no access to medical services. Since 1982, the organization has raised community awareness among women, men and youth in the areas of family planning, prenatal health and other sexual health issues. Ms. Al Sharai has found that by expanding services to involve men in all stages of family planning, more men have allowed their wives to use contraceptives and more women can access such services without being deterred by traditional stigma.

Although they have faced cultural and religious issues in publicly promoting family planning and reproductive education, religious leaders have stepped up and joined family planning efforts, (based on the statements in the Koran, which states that children must be spaced two years apart for the health of the mother and child) making it an important and publicized issue. Policies have been put in place to allow women who have given birth in the past two years, and girls involved in child marriages, to use contraceptives.

Since 2001, due to allegations that UNFPA is complicit in forced abortions in China, the US Congress, through the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, has withheld over 127 million dollars in funds allocated to UNFPA. In May of 2002, A U.S. State Department fact-finding mission reported, "We find no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the People's Republic of China”. The mission recommended the release of $34 million for Fiscal Year 2002.

(Some 160 independent diplomatic and technical monitoring missions have visited UNFPA operations in China and found no involvement in any coercive activity).

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