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$207 million pledged to UN population agency facing US cuts

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Population Fund, which has seen all funding cut by the Trump administration, says donors have committed $207 million to help expand family planning services and strengthen national health programs.

But the agency, known as UNFPA, says it still needs $700 million for contraceptives and other family planning supplies for 2017-2020.

International donors made the pledges Tuesday at a Family Planning Summit in London but the total wasn't announced until late Thursday.

The agency's acting executive director Natalia Kanem said in a statement that family planning is "one of the smartest investments" for countries because it allows women to choose whether or when to have children.

"They can stay in school longer, earn a degree and enter the workforce, ultimately making families, communities and nations thrive," she said.

UNFPA said Friday it was allocated about $69 million for 2016 from the United States, including about $31 million for its overall budget and the remainder earmarked for specific programs. It received $75 million from the U.S. in 2015.

But the Trump administration announced in April it was cutting all funding to the population fund, following through on campaign promises by President Donald Trump to let socially conservative policies determine the way the U.S. government operates and conducts itself in the world.

Even though UNFPA does not support or provide abortions, the cut was widely viewed as a gesture to anti-abortion advocates and other conservative interests.

The agency said $132.9 million of the funding pledged Tuesday will support its core budget, including enabling it to tackle emergencies quickly and provide sexual and reproductive health services to women and girls caught in humanitarian crises.

Another $74.1 million will be invested in UNFPA Supplies, a program which currently provides over 40 percent of donated contraceptives worldwide, reaching about 20 million women and young people each year.

In 2016 alone, contraceptives provided by UNFPA Supplies helped avert about 7.1 million unintended pregnancies, 20,000 maternal deaths and 126,000 child deaths, the agency said.

Arthur Erken, UNFPA's director of communications and strategic partnerships, said Friday that "while we still have a considerable gap in funding, it was a major step in the right direction, with developing countries stepping up to the plate."

But he said without the $700 million needed for 2017 to 2020 the UNFPA Supplies program "could be forced to cut services, which will reduce the number of women and girls it can serve."

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