Statement by Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney

Nov 7, 2001
Press Release

First, I'd like to thank UNFPA for all of their hard work in producing this important report.

I'd also like to specifically recognize UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Thoraya Obaid, who unfortunately could not attend today''s event, but whose work and leadership we will hear about today.

As many of you know, we are fortunate to have such a strong, and courageous leader in these uncertain times. Her appointment, as the first Saudi Arabian national to head a UN agency, provides a meaningful role model for girls and women worldwide.

I am pleased to share this platform with my friend, Congressman Mark Kirk, who has shown a strong commitment to family planning and Michael McKinley, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. I'd like to personally thank you (Mr. McKinley) for the $600,000 in supplemental humanitarian funds the State Department has given to support the reproductive health needs of Aghan women refugees.

I'd like to first acknowledge the work UNFPA is doing for the women in Afghanistan. As many of you know, UNFPA has launched the largest humanitarian operation in its history to save the lives of Afghan women facing reproductive health risks. It is estimated that more than half of the nearly 1.5 million refugees fleeing Afghanistan are women. Of those, between 60,000 and 70,000 are reported to be pregnant. UNFPA is contributing to an extremely vital effort that we hope will save women's lives and the lives of their children .The work that UNFPA is doing in Afghanistan mirrors UNFPA's global commitment to saving women's lives around the world.

Helping save women's lives by improving environmental and health conditions in the developing world is the theme of a chapter in this report that really struck me. UNFPA highlights the relationship so we can better understand how these issues are connected and why action is needed.

Because of poor conditions in much of the developing world, women are being exposed to harmful fuels in their own homes. This is something we don't think about very often, but when many women perform a regular task -- like cook dinner for their families -- they burn and inhale coal. This means that women and girls are at the greatest risk of respiratory infections, lung disease, and even death. Tragically, air pollution kills 3 million people a year and indoor air pollution is responsible for two-thirds of these deaths.

This is one of the reasons UNFPA is so important. UNFPA works to educate women so that they don't live with these harmful fuels that damage their reproductive health and cause low birth weight babies and childhood developmental problems.

These severe environmental consequences impact more than just one family, one community, or even one country. They affect all of us for generations to come. The world's population has doubled since 1960 to 6.1 billion people and will vault to 9.3 billion in 2050 -- less than fifty years from today. We don't have time to waste. We must learn to conserve our natural resources, but we must also learn from and tap the most "natural" resource of all -- the women of the world. Women are the key to improving the status of our world and we must not lock them out.

We are going to conference soon on the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. I've been fighting for UNFPA for a long time and have written to the appropriators urging them to follow the Senate's leadership and maintain the $ 40 million for UNFPA in the budget so that you can continue all of the vital programs you provide to women and children around the world.

In closing, I would like to note how unfortunate it is that a small minority, who are opposed to family planning services, are continuing to misrepresent the work of UNFPA. If you hear something that doesn't sound right, I would urge you to call me or Representative. Kirk or the State Department, so that we can explain the facts and set the record straight about UNFPA's proven record of success in addressing the health needs of women and their families around the world.

Thank you.