34 million 'Friends of UNFPA Campaign' hits $1 million milestone

Posted: 7 May 2003

The founders of the grassroots campaign "34 Million Friends of UNFPA" have announced that it has raised $1 million to support the United Nations Population Fund, mostly in small donations. More than 100,000 Americans have contributed to the campaign to help replace funds withheld by the United States Administration last July.

"This campaign highlights the power of individuals to make a difference," said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director. "It also shows that the American people support the right of all women to have quality health care and to be able to plan their families."

UNFPA will use the campaign's first million dollars to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women; reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS; equip hospitals with essential supplies; support adolescents and youth; and prevent and treat obstetric fistula, a debilitating condition that results from obstructed labour.

Campaign founders, Lois Abraham, a lawyer from New Mexico, and Jane Roberts, a retired French teacher and tennis coach from California, had never met, but they shared the same indignant reaction when the United States Administration withheld $34 million that Congress had appropriated for UNFPA. Roberts sent a letter to a newspaper, asking that, "as an exercise in outraged democracy, would 34 million Americans please send $1 each? This would right a terrible wrong." Abraham emailed 40 friends, asking them each to donate $1 to UNFPA and pass the email along to 10 more friends. Thus, the "34 Million Friends" campaign was born.

Abraham and Roberts recognize that $34 million is an ambitious goal, but agree that the campaign is "just getting started". The women intend to reach out to people in Europe to spread the word about what they consider to be "a humanitarian issue, not a political one".

To spark continued support for this campaign, the United Nations Foundation announced it would match donations with 25 cents to the dollar, for a total grant of $250,000. "It is clear that Americans support the work and mission of this vital UN agency and we are delighted to add our gift to spur even more contributions," said Timothy Wirth, president of the UN Foundation. "We are honoured to be a part of this unprecedented movement and we fully endorse the work of UNFPA to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women in developing countries."

  • On May 6, the $34 Million Friends campaign moved to Europe for a formal launch in Brussels, the European Union capital. British, French andGerman donors have already contributed to the Friends, along with Canadians, Mexicans and others in the Americas.

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    American citizens launch 34 million friends campaigns to support UNFPA