Thank you, Mr. President. I would also like to thank Executive Director Obaid for her remarks yesterday. It comes as no surprise that Dr. Obaid received a life-time achievement award at the Women Deliver conference held in Washington earlier this month. On behalf of my government, as conveyed by Secretary Clinton in her meeting with Dr. Obaid last week, we thank you for your steady leadership of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for the past decade – and salute you for your long-standing commitment to the women, men, girls and boys who have benefited from your tireless service.
I am especially honored to represent the Government of the United States at the 2010 Annual Session of UNFPA’s Executive Board. It has been many years since I’ve had the opportunity to address this gathering and I want to personally assure fellow Board members of the United States’ commitment to UNFPA and its efforts to provide critical, life-saving family planning and reproductive health care assistance where it is most needed. We are committed to working with UNFPA management and Board members to achieve our shared objectives of making UNFPA a stronger organization that institutes management and program practices to deliver effectively in the field and demonstrates results to the public and its beneficiaries alike.
We are pleased that UNFPA is working in over 150 countries to support national efforts related to the ICPD Program of Action. We also appreciate the Fund’s work to assist countries in their efforts to reach Millennium Development Goal 5, the goal on which the least progress has been made. We further commend UNFPA for its collaboration with the Guttmacher Institute to update the Adding It Up report which demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of simultaneously investing in maternal health and family planning services.
The recent Lancet article provides encouraging statistics on the reduction in maternal mortality. However, although we have made real progress, there is still much to be done. We know that the hundreds of thousands of deaths each year among women due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, most of which are from preventable causes, is one of our greatest moral and development challenges.
Fortunately, there have been many important changes in U.S. policy in the area of international reproductive health and family planning that will have a significantly positive impact as we work together to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
The United States has continued to increase its financial support for reproductive health and family planning programs. The U.S. Congress appropriated more than $648 million in foreign assistance to family planning and reproductive health programs worldwide in 2010, including $55 million for UNFPA and approximately $596 million in bilateral assistance to more than 20 million women in 60 countries through the work of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The cornerstone of our global health policy is President Obama’s $63 billion Global Health Initiative (GHI) which will improve health outcomes in the world’s poorest countries. Because women serve as the gateway to their communities and have unique health needs, the Global Health Initiative has adopted a woman and girl-centered approach. To support this focus, the President’s 2011 budget calls for substantial increases in resources for maternal health and family planning programs. The Initiative will expand efforts to make pregnancy and childbirth safer by increasing access to family planning and reproductive health care. The Initiative also focuses on strengthening health systems to provide women and girls with integrated health services and on addressing the social determinants of health.
We look forward to increased coordination of country programs with UNFPA as part of the Global Health Initiative. Such coordination with other donors is one of the major principles for implementation of this Initiative.
The Global Health Initiative also expands and builds upon existing programs, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – or PEPFAR. PEPFAR has made support for reproductive health and family planning a priority, expanding integration of HIV prevention, care and support, and treatment services with family planning and reproductive health services. Wherever possible, distinct activities will be strategically integrated into a full package of health services for women, newborns and children. For example, clinics that currently provide family planning and antenatal services will also deliver services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Likewise, strong prevention programs can be broadened to deliver family planning and antenatal care.
The U.S. also recognizes that sexual and reproductive health care is a frontline priority in complex emergency settings, and must be included along with other life-saving interventions in emergencies, such as water and sanitation, shelter and nutrition-based programs. UNFPA’s increased humanitarian relief efforts for women in crisis situations, most notably in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are critically important. We applaud UNFPA for organizing tomorrow’s special joint side event on humanitarian and emergency response and are committed to working collaboratively with UNFPA and other UN development and humanitarian organizations to respond to the challenges of providing predictable reproductive health services in crisis settings.
In closing, we look forward to continuing our work with the Executive Board and fellow member states to support UNFPA’s mission. The U.S. is working with the international community to address issues related to maternal health and family planning. We are actively engaged within the G-8 on the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal and Child Health and the UN Secretary General’s Joint Effort on Women and Children.
As we look ahead to the Millennium Development Goals Summit this fall, we must work collectively to accelerate progress towards reducing maternal mortality and morbidity to achieve all of the health-related MDGs. Over the next few years, we have a remarkable opportunity to help tens of millions of women and girls around the world live healthier lives and reach their full potential.