Statement

Urgent Efforts Needed to Protect Women and Girls in Crises

19 August 2018

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem on World Humanitarian Day 2018

Women and girls uprooted by war or disaster are at heightened risk of rape, exploitation and abuse. Yet reaching a refugee camp or other places where humanitarian services are available does not necessarily eliminate these risks.

A poorly lit lavatory or a water pump that is out of view of security officers can be dangerous places where women and girls can become targets for sexual violence. Where security is lacking, they may choose not to take advantage of services available to them. A pregnant woman who is about to give birth may face an impossible choice: deliver on her own or risk being attacked as she seeks the help of a nearby midwife or clinic.

No woman should have to make such a decision. Sometimes the solutions are as simple as installing more lights in camps or making sure critical services are situated in public areas. However, often the solutions require more concerted action to address underlying gender inequalities that perpetuate violence against women.

On this World Humanitarian Day, I call on all humanitarian actors to meet our shared obligation to protect the vulnerable from harm, and especially to protect the rights, safety, health and lives of women and girls. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is doing its part by providing life-saving reproductive health care to women in crisis-affected countries, safe spaces for women and girls, and services for survivors of sexual violence. With the support of the entire humanitarian community, we can dramatically reduce the risks faced every day by millions of women and girls.

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