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Humanitarian Summit Closes Amidst Looming Crisis in Funding for Contraceptives

Analysis Taryn Couture, Research Associate

Today marks the last day of World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. On the agenda for the meeting is to ensure that women in emergencies have access to sexual and reproductive health services. These services are critical to respond to a higher risk of unwanted pregnancies, greater risk of sexual violence, and survival and/or transactional sex that women in humanitarian emergencies face.

At the same moment, UNFPA, one of the major leaders in providing reproductive health supplies in humanitarian crises, is quietly reporting a $45 million shortfall in the $120 million needed for its UNFPA supplies program budget. The supplies program is responsible for funding contraceptives in emergencies. As we show in our latest infographic, this equates to nearly 40% shortfall in funding for UNFPA supplies.

UNFPA is one of the only organizations providing key reproductive health services in crisis situations. In 2015 alone UNFPA provided contraceptives to a staggering 20,780,000 women, men, and adolescents of reproductive age facing humanitarian crisis. These include women and girls who, without access to these life-saving commodities, could face increased risk of carrying and giving birth to children in risky environments. It is not hard to imagine the complications that would come with being pregnant in such situations, including infection, low birth-weight, malnutrition, obstetric fistulas, the list goes on.

In fact, UNFPA is the primary provider of reproductive health supplies in 24 countries, 12 of which are experiencing humanitarian situations. Most of these countries do not have sustainable health financing and therefore are without the adequate resources to fully cover reproductive health supplies. If UNFPA is unable to meet the contraceptive needs of these 24 countries, health systems, and ultimately women, will be empty-handed at some point during the year.

However, as people in the reproductive health supplies community know, pinning down UNFPA’s exact shortfall is elusive (see the Guardian’s recent post and the CGD blog on this same topic). This is our understanding of the shortfall in funding needed to maintain UNFPA supplies’ current level of operations in 2016, based on our conversations with UNFPA. We strongly encourage that UNFPA comes out clearly to set the record straight on these figures.

UNFPA is critical to ensuring women and girls have access to reproductive health supplies. It plays a particularly important role in humanitarian settings, where women are in need of greater reproductive health coverage and support. As the World Humanitarian Summit works on resolving some of the worst humanitarian suffering seen in years, we must not close our eyes to the crisis that will unfold if UNFPA is unable to provide full contraceptive coverage.


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