As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact women and girls hit by multiple humanitarian crises, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency appealed on Monday for $818 million to provide 54 million women and youth with essential and life-saving services throughout 2021.
“The rights and needs of women and adolescent girls in emergencies are often overlooked, and COVID-19 has made matters worse, with rising intimate partner violence, sexual violence and child marriage”, said Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
‘A right to peace’ at home
Through its humanitarian appeal, UNFPA emphasized the need to adapt and integrate services for sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence (GBV), mental health, and psychosocial support during the pandemic.
“Whether she lives in a house or a tent in a refugee camp, every woman and girl has a right to peace in the home. Whether in a warzone, displaced or affected by natural disaster, she has a right to good health and wellbeing, and to live with dignity”, the UN agency chief upheld.
The appeal also calls for more investment in local women-led and youth organizations that work as frontline responders and agents of change.
Moreover, it outlines how humanitarian assistance, sustainable development and peacebuilding are key pathways for recovery from COVID-19.
“Investments in women and girls and in their leadership improve prospects for sustainable peace, prosperity and development”, underscored the UNFPA chief.
This year, the agency has helped more than seven million women in 53 countries with sexual and reproductive health services; 4.4 million people in 49 countries with family planning supplies and services; and 2.8 million with services to address gender-based violence.
“Funding can spell the difference between life and death in a crisis”, she flagged.
Highlighting the world’s biggest crises for women and girls, UNFPA’s Humanitarian Action 2021 Overview presented an overview of countries in dire need of support.
In the Middle East, rising GBV and diminishing healthcare facilities in Yemen have prompted the need for $100 million, including to support more than a million pregnant and acutely malnourished women.
To assist more than 11 million people inside Syria and close to 5.7 million others who have fled, UNFPA is asking for $81 million for sexual and reproductive health and GBV services, as well as to provide essential supplies.
Turning to Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) requires $67 million for UNFPA and UN partners to address structural causes of intercommunal conflict and promote peaceful coexistence, with an emphasis on women and young people, while scaling up hotlines for lifesaving GBV assistance during the pandemic.
In Sudan, $40 million is required to address the extensive humanitarian challenges faced by some 12.7 million people, including nearly 300,000 pregnant women living in a country in which fewer than one-third of health facilities offer emergency obstetric care as well as limited GBV services.
Meanwhile, UNFPA is appealing for $27 million to ensure continuity of sexual and reproductive health services and reduce the risk of GBV among Venezuelan girls, women and host communities.
And in Bangladesh, which hosts one of the world’s largest refugee populations, $19 million is needed to continue to provide life-saving sexual and reproductive health and protection services and support 38 women-friendly spaces across the country, 23 of which are in Cox’s Bazar.