UN upholds family planning on World Population Day

July 11th, 2008 - 1:01 am ICT by IANS  

New York, July 10 (DPA) The observances of World Population Day Friday present an opportunity to highlight the importance of family planning and to integrate it into national development plans, the UN Population Fund said Thursday. The fund, known by its acronym UNFPA, has been the target of attacks by the conservatives in the US, which charged the fund for favouring abortion in China. UNFPA has rejected the charge.

President George W. Bush, bending conservative demands, last month withheld for the seventh consecutive year the US annual contribution to UNFPA, a sizable $40 million.

UNFPA’s executive director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said family “is essential to women’s empowerment and gender equality. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a message on World Population Day that family planning has “immediate benefits for the lives and health of mothers and their infants”.

“Let us focus on the critical importance of family planning if we are to successfully achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

“Let us reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015,” he said, referring to the goals of rolling back the number of deaths in pregnant women because of the lack of health services.

The UN has been calling for effective means to eradicate poverty and hunger by allowing people to take part in economic development.

It said family planning can help people have the time - by choosing freely a family size and spacing child births, for example - to take part in development.

UNFPA, which funds programmes for women’s healthcare worldwide, said more than 140 countries will observe World Population Day, which falls July 11 each year. The world now has a total population of more than 6.6 billion.

A group, Americans for UNFPA, said the US helped establish UNFPA in 1969, but Washington disagrees with some of its programmes, particularly regarding the issues of abortion, and withheld its annual contribution.

The group said the US is the only country “to ever withhold money from UNFPA for reasons that are political, not financial”.

It said the Bush administration has withheld a total of $235 million destined for UNFPA since 2002. The money could have been used to prevent about 294,000 maternal deaths since that year.

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