Pacific Island countries are facing “critical” shortages of condoms, which could endanger the region’s status as one of the places least affected by HIV/AIDS, the New Zealand Herald reports. “The US withdrawal of its contribution [to the UNFPA] has affected all our programs and is compromising the reproductive health of women and men throughout developing countries,” Catherine Shevlin Pierce, the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Pacific representative, told the Herald.
In October of 2002, Population Action International (PAI) issued a new report that shows that there is a shortage of condoms being donated from richer countries to poorer countries, with a current supply that is about one tenth of what’s needed. The report, entitled “Condoms Count: Meeting the Need in the Era of HIV/AIDS,” shows that at least 8 billion condoms are needed every year to protect people against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in developing countries and Eastern Europe. According to PAI, less than one billion condoms are distributed annually. The report also states that the US is falling behind on policy and funding for the global supply of condoms.
In a move that could cost the lives of tens of thousands of women and children around the globe, President Bush officially withheld $34 million in funds for the UNFPA. Bush’s decision was made based on unsubstantiated claims that the UNFPA supports forced abortions in China. USAID and UNFPA are the two largest sources of condoms for the developing world. Condoms are cheap, reliable, and prevent AIDS and pregnancies. The United Nations has estimated that for every $1 million that was not spent on condoms, there will be 360,000 unwanted pregnancies, 150,000 abortions, 25,000 deaths of children under the age of 5, and 800 maternal deaths, according to the New York Times.