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UNFPA Representative concludes a four-day visit to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

26 August 2020; Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq  - UNFPA Representative, Dr Rita Columbia, concluded on 26 August her visit to Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where she met with key line ministries and governmental partners. 

During her four-day visit, she attended the launch of the results of the National Adolescents and Youth Survey, which was conducted by the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government with the support of UNFPA & UNICEF in 2019. 

The survey, the first of its kind in over a decade, will enable the Iraq Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to focus on national and regional adolescent and youth-centred policies based on the priorities identified by adolescents and youth. 

The event took place at the Kurdistan Institute for Public Administration in the presence of the Minister of Planning, Dr Dara Rashid, the Minister of Culture and Youth, Mr Mohammad Said Ali, the UN DSRSG/Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, the UNFPA Representative in Iraq, Rita Columbia as well as UN and Government officials.

Dr Columbia joined the UN delegation at the Ministry of Planning in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that discussed the support of the UN Country Team to the Kurdistan Regional Government for the economic development of the region highlighting social-economic opportunities for the people of Kurdistan region especially women and young people.

The UN delegation meeting with the Minister of Planning © 2020/UNAMI photo
The UN delegation meeting with the Minister of Planning © 2020/UNAMI Photo

For her part, Dr Columbia reiterated the Fund’s support to the Ministry: “UNFPA will continue to assist the Ministry of Planning with reliable data for policy and decision-making. Together, we will ensure that a regional Population policy is fully aligned with the regional inspirations for socio-economic development”.

Later, she visited the Ministry of Culture & Youth and met with HE Mohammad Said Ali to discuss collaboration for improving services for young people provided through the Ministry-supported youth centres in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The UNFPA Representative emphasised the importance of an inter-sectoral coordination mechanism, under the leadership of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, to design and implement programmes focused on the needs and rights of young men and women in the Kurdistan Region, such as decent employment, quality education including vocational, civic engagement and youth empowerment, especially girls and vulnerable youth.  

She also met with the Minister of Health, Dr Saman Mohammed, on the ways to ensure safe access to maternal health services during COVID-19 and the support to the maternity wards in the Kurdistan Region. 

Dr Columbia with Ms Kwestan Mohammed © 2020/MOLSA Photo
Dr Columbia with Ms Kwestan Mohammed © 2020/MOLSA Photo​​​​​

Her meetings included discussions with the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Ms Kwestan Mohammed, on the situation of the shelters in the Kurdistan Region.

Talks focused on the need for creating development opportunities for survivors in shelters and increasing the capacity of the social sector to support GBV prevention and survivors in shelters. 

Dr Columbia and Ms Kwestan emphasised the importance of collaborating with the private sector in supporting economic independence of survivors, especially those in the shelters.

The UNFPA Representative met with the Head of the Kurdistan High Council for Women’s Affairs, Dr Khanzad Ahmed, with whom UNFPA has joint activities to support women’s rights, including reproductive health, in the Kurdistan region. Further collaboration and common tasks were discussed.  

The UNFPA team, headed by Dr Columbia visited the Kurdistan Regional Statistics Office’s President, Ms Serwan Mohammed, a long-standing partner of UNFPA. The key priorities of collaboration between the two agencies such as census, SDGs monitoring and population data for policymakers were raised during the meeting. KRSO and UNFPA agreed on specific action points for strengthening partnership and support from UNFPA. 

During her mission to the Kurdistan Region, Dr Rita Columbia visited Bahirka camp for internally displaced people and stopped by the UNFPA-reproductive health clinic and women centre.

She met with the health and social workers at the facilities, listened to the challenges the women and girls in the camp faced, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic and discussed the different ways for improving the services. She also thanked the teams for their dedication to the population and for ensuring no one is left behind.

Rita Columbia at the UNFPA-supported reproductive health clinic in Bahirka camp © 2020/UNFPA Iraq

"It is critical to support the needs of women on the front line of COVID-19 response, including how their work environment may be impacted, their safety requirements & their psychological needs", said Dr Columbia at the end of her visit.

“Midwives, nurses, gynaecologists, social workers and community mobilisers are the strongest advocates for women’s health during the pandemic. UNFPA will continue to support women and girls, especially health workers, in every possible way!”, she added.


UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

For more information or media inquiries, please contact Ms Salwa Moussa, Communications Specialist,