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US grassroots campaign raises $1 million for UN population agency

US grassroots campaign raises $1 million for UN population agency

A grassroots campaign in the United States has raised $1 million to support the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which lost a significant portion of its funding when the US administration withheld the $34 million that had been appropriated for the agency.

“This campaign highlights the power of individuals to make a difference,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said today. “It also shows that the American people support the right of all women to have quality health care and to be able to plan their families.”

UNFPA said it would use the campaign’s first million dollars to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women; reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS; equip hospitals with essential supplies; support adolescents and youth; and prevent and treat obstetric fistula, a debilitating condition that results from obstructed labour.

The “34 million Friends of UNFPA” campaign was founded by Jane Roberts, a retired teacher from California, and Lois Abraham, a lawyer from New Mexico, as a result of their shared indignation over the withdrawal of funding last July following allegations that UNFPA supported coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization in China. The agency denied the allegations, saying, “UNFPA has not, does not and will not ever condone or support coercive activities of any kind anywhere.”

Ms. Roberts sent a letter to a newspaper, asking 34 million Americans to send $1 each to UNFPA “as an exercise in outraged democracy” and to right a terrible wrong, according to the agency. Ms. Abraham then e-mailed 40 friends, asking them to donate $1 and pass the message to 10 more friends. Thus, the “34 Million Friends” campaign was born. More than 100,000 Americans have contributed to the campaign.

UNFPA is the world's largest multilateral source of population assistance. It is estimated that the $34 million in funding from the US could prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, nearly 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths.