World Health Day 2017 - How defunding UNFPA impacts our global mental health

World Health Day 2017 - How defunding UNFPA impacts our global mental health


Every year we honor World Health Day along with colleagues and partners around the world to shine a light on a single topic of major importance in the global health community. This year’s topic is “depression” and the impact mental health has on personal health and the health of families, communities and the world at large. When it comes to the people CARE serves, mental health is a make or break factor in their survival and ability to learn, work, and improve their lives.

CARE works with women and girls in the poorest countries to help lift entire communities out of poverty in empowering, sustainable ways. Our 70-year history and global research have demonstrated that when women have equal access to education, resources, healthcare, human rights, economic opportunities and the services they need to protect their health and plan their lives –they thrive and so do their families. When women in impoverished communities rise up together, they improve the quality of life of everyone around them.  As economies improve, so does community health. The impact is life changing.  In fact; we think it’s world changing

The opposite, however, is also true and we’re seeing this tragedy play out at record proportions.  When women are consistently demoralized, blocked from accessing rights and resources and treated like second-class citizens, the impact is devastating. When a woman’s survival is at stake, when her children are dying, when violence, conflict, and starvation are everyday occurrences and opportunities to improve one’s life are scarce, the impact on mental health is indelible.  When you consider that millions of women in the world live under those conditions and that many struggle with depression and other mental health conditions, you begin to recognize how big an impact mental health has on the safety, security and future of our planet. 

Right now,

  • More than 65 million people live in refugee settings where conflict is rife and desperation and boredom are overwhelming.
  • Millions of women live in areas where conflict, poverty, violence and gender inequities are deeply ingrained. 
  • 225 million women desperately want some measure of control over their lives via safe family planning, yet can’t get access to the services and supplies they need.

CARE knows that voluntary family planning is among the most essential and effective ways to improve women’s health - physically, mentally and socially.  Women all over the world want to avoid becoming pregnant when they’re not physically, emotionally or economically capable, especially when their lives have been blown apart, their health is at risk and their very survival is on the line.  When you’re already facing the worst that humanity has to offer, having the ability to choose whether or not to become pregnant is critical.  Yet the poorest women in the world and the ones with the most at stake have very limited access to the reproductive healthcare they need. This week’s announcement to immediately defund UNFPA (the United Nation’s organization agency responsible for global family planning, maternal, child and reproductive health) makes things so much worse. 

Generations of women are living with extreme traumas, degradations and losses, like nothing most of us will ever know.  Millions grapple with disabling, untreated post partum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxieties that impact their ability to function.  The day-to-day stresses and traumas they face would drop any of us to our knees. The rejection and hopelessness they must feel as the world stands by and watches them suffer is something that will impact the entire world.

Many of the programs CARE supports in developing countries address issues that contribute to, prevent and help people recover from some of the traumas mentioned above.  We’re dedicated to helping women and girls’ access education, resources, economic and employment opportunities, food, healthcare and the agency to speak for them selves and live to their fullest potential. 

CARE believes that when women thrive, communities become healthier, countries become more self-reliant and the world becomes a healthier, happier, more secure place for everyone. 




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