UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has voiced "deep regret" at the US' decision to cut financial support for the United Nations Population Fund, saying the move could have "devastating effects" on the health of vulnerable women and girls around the world.
The UN chief said that cutting financial support for the UN Population Fund, formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), which is active in more than 150 countries and territories, is based on a misinterpretation of the agency's work.
"The Secretary-General deeply regrets the decision by the United States to cut financial support for the UN Population Fund, which could have devastating effects on the health of vulnerable women and girls and their families around the world," a statement issued by Guterres' spokesperson said on 4 April, 2017.
It said Guterres feels the decision is based on an "inaccurate perception" of the nature and importance of the work of the UNFPA.
The UN chief, who as High Commissioner for Refugees, saw first-hand the life-saving character of UNFPA's activities, appealed to donors to increase their support for the UNFPA to allow it to continue its "critical" work during this "difficult" period.
In a separate statement, the UNFPA regretted the decision by the US to deny any future funding for its work the world over. It also noted that the decision is based on the "erroneous claim" that the UNFPA "supports, or participates in the management of, a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation" in China.
Refuting this claim, the UNFPA said all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination.
"UN member states have long described UNFPA's work in China as a force for good," the UNFPA said.
The funding cut, which would go into effect during the 2017 fiscal year, was announced in a memo from the US State Department stating that the UNFPA "supports, or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in China".
The agency said the support it received over the years from the US government saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, especially in the current rapidly developing global humanitarian crises.
With the previous contribution of the US, the UNFPA was combatting gender-based violence and reducing the scourge of maternal deaths in the world's most fragile settings, in areas of conflict and natural disasters, including Iraq, Nepal, Sudan, Syria, Philippines, Ukraine and Yemen, it said.
"We have always valued the United States as a trusted partner and leader in helping to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. We, therefore, look forward to continuing our work with the US to address these global concerns...," the UNFPA said.
The UN agency's aim is to deliver a world "where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled," according to its website.
In 2016, the agency saved the lives of more than 2,340 women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth, and helped to ensure more than 1,250 fistula surgeries.