Women and girls are facing hunger and other serious threats to their health, rights and safety
United Nations | Xinhua | United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday launched an appeal for 113.7 million U.S. dollars to scale up life-saving reproductive health and protection services for women and girls in the Horn of Africa.
An unprecedented drought in the region has left more than 36 million people needing urgent humanitarian assistance. Conflict, locust infestations and the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are worsening the effects of the extreme weather, pushing millions to the brink of starvation, the world’s sexual and reproductive health agency said.
“Whole communities are bearing the brunt of the crisis, but as is often the case women and girls are paying an unacceptably high price,” said UNFPA in a press release.
“As the food security situation continues to deteriorate in the Horn of Africa, women and girls are facing hunger and other serious threats to their health, rights and safety,” said Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN Population Fund.
“UNFPA’s priority is to safeguard access to life-saving reproductive health and protection services that are critical to the survival and well-being of women and girls,” she added.
According to the agency, thirst and hunger have driven more than 1.7 million people from their homes in search of food, water and essential services, among which the majority are mothers often walking for days and weeks to escape drought.
“Perilous journeys on foot to displacement sites, flimsy makeshift shelters and longer distances to collect water are heightening their vulnerability to sexual violence, exploitation and abuse,” said UNFPA, citing already pervasive harm like girls dropping out of school, female genital mutilation and child marriage.
Noting that more than 892,000 pregnant women in the region are to give birth over the next three months, the agency stressed that malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women is acute, increasing their risk of severe, if not fatal, pregnancy complications.
“The current crisis has far-reaching impacts for women and girls across the region,” said Kanem. “We need to act now to save thousands of lives and provide women and girls with the essential support they urgently need and a chance at building a better future.”
As part of its appeal, UNFPA plans to establish mobile and static health clinics, and increase community outreach to take reproductive health services to women and girls, including in displacement sites, and to deploy trained midwives to static and mobile clinics in areas where women’s and girls’ needs are greatest.