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Sunday, July 21, 2019
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 3 2015 (IPS) - Women’s health must be protected in crisis situations and during conflicts, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said in its new State of World Population report released here.
The report, titled “Shelter from the Storm” and launched on 3 Dec, reveals the lack of access to, and provision of health services for, women and girls in emergencies, a time they are needed most.
“Having the means to prevent a pregnancy and being safe from sexual violence—these are basic human rights,” UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said. “Rights don’t just go away, and women don’t stop giving birth when a conflict breaks out or disaster strikes,” he continued.
During such crises, women and girls are at heightened risk of sexual- and gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections, unintended or unwanted pregnancies, and maternal death and illness.
Approximately 60 percent of preventable maternal deaths occur among women struggling to survive conflicts, natural disasters and displacement.
In just one day, over 500 women and adolescent girls die from pregnancy and childbirth complications in these settings.
Pregnant refugees and/or migrants making the long and perilous journey to and across Europe also face the risk of pregnancy complications or even miscarriages.
However, the provision of sexual and reproductive health services has been insufficient, the report stated.
UNFPA noted gender inequality and discrimination in humanitarian responses as interventions fail to consider the different ways crises can affect various groups.
For instance, when general health care is supplied in a crisis but not services related to pregnancy, child birth or contraception, even well-intentioned actions can perpetuate inequalities and leave already disadvantaged women and girls in dangerous circumstances.
“The health and rights of women and adolescents should not be treated like an afterthought in humanitarian response,” Dr Osotimehin said.
“For the pregnant woman who is about to deliver, or the adolescent girl who survived sexual violence, life-saving services are as vital as water, food, and shelter,” he added.
The report also revealed that funding for health services has not kept up with demand, threatening the lives of millions of people.
Of the 100 million people in need of humanitarian assistance globally, an increase from 78 million in 2013, approximately 26 million, or one quarter, are women and adolescent girls of reproductive age.
However, in 2014, the UN, which required 19.5 billion dollars to response to humanitarian crises around the world, faced a 7.5 billion dollar shortfall.
Between 2002 and 2013, only 43 percent of funding was met for reproductive health services in humanitarian emergencies.
UNFPA has called for a transformative shift, away from reaction and towards prevention, preparedness and empowerment of individuals and communities to cope and recover from crises.
The organisation particularly highlighted resilience building among women and girls and the institutions that serve them because without it, the group will continue to be among those most in need of humanitarian assistance.
The report adds that humanitarian responses must not continue its discriminatory patterns. Instead, humanitarian assistance can and should challenge existing forms of discrimination, generate new social norms, and contribute to long-term development.
“When women and girls can obtain sexual and reproductive health services…the benefits of interventions grow exponentially and carry over from the acute phase of a crisis well into the future as countries and communities rebuild,” remarked Osotimehin in the foreword to the report.
“Together, we must strive for a world where women and girls are no longer disadvantaged in multiple ways but are equally empowered to realize their full potential, and contribute to the development and stability of their communities and nations—before, during or after a crisis,” he concluded.
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