World Population Day 2015

Civilians waiting for aid in Alleppo, Syria. Photo: UNICEF/Romenzi

Civilians waiting for aid in Alleppo, Syria. Photo: UNICEF/Romenzi

On 11 July, as communities everywhere observe World Population Day, United Nations Population Fund-UNFPA calls for investments on vulnerable populations in emergencies.

Today, there are about over 50 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict and disasters in most parts of the world. Women, children and young people comprise over three quarters of this group. Girls and women in crisis situations face much greater risk of abuse, sexual exploitation, violence, forced marriage, reproductive health-related illnesses, and death due to the lack of protection and an absence of aid delivery to address their needs.

“When a crisis strikes, humanitarian response must be swift and adaptable to the needs of affected populations. Women and young people may especially require targeted support, and aid must be sustained from the onset of an emergency until recovery.” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, in a statement.

In protracted crises and many early recovery contexts, there is a lack of access to basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric services and family planning; services to treat survivors of gender-based violence are scant or non-existent; and care for and prevention of sexually transmitted infections is limited. Besides, most of the service providers are not trained about SRH in crisis situations. It is no coincidence that, of the 10 countries with the highest maternal death rates in the world, eight are also affected by insecurity and conflict.

Preparedness is essential

Women and girls are more vulnerable in emergencies and have specific needs that are often ignored in crises. Securing their safety, dignity and health ensures the well-being of families and communities.

Addressing adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) during emergency preparedness can help to ensure that the critical needs of this population are not overlooked at the onset of emergencies. Involving adolescents in preparedness efforts is an important initial step. Additionally, pre-positioning supplies, making information readily available, providing education and communication materials and training peer educators will better ensure the SRH needs of adolescents in the early stages of an emergency.

UNFPA mandate and strategic advantage

Crises magnify women’s reproductive needs and challenge us to succeed in delivering even in the most difficult contexts. When we do this, women and girls are safer and healthier.

UNFPA is mandated to co-lead (with UNHCR) the Gender-Based Violence Area of Responsibility of the Protection Cluster and often leads coordination of Reproductive Health Working Groups as part of the Health Cluster with WHO .

The provision of emergency sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services is a key component of essential life-saving activities. Especially to decrease maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in crisis situations. Women and girls’vulnerability to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence increase in humanitarian settings. UNFPA’s humanitarian support in the areas of SRH, gender based violence (GBV) and data targets the most vulnerable, mainly women, adolescents and young people.

Mounting vulnerabilities: Reproductive Health and Gender Based Violence 

UNFPA’s emergency response includes supplies for natal care; clean delivery kits to help prevent infections among women who cannot reach a medical facility during delivery; equipment and medicines for clinical deliveries; supplies for emergency obstetric care; and support to address post-partum complications that can arise for both mothers and newborns. Besides that, UNFPA also provides emergency repsonse to rape cases, unwanted pregnancies, treatment for STIs and prevention for HIV/AIDS with RH kits.

Since 2012, 166,272 hygiene kits and 99,620 dignity kits were procured and distributed in program provinces. RH kits procured and distributed for 100,000 for Suruc/Urfa very recently. FP commodities procured and distributed to 25 camps according to MoU needs assessment. As an adhoc activity, UNFPA also provided lice and scabies shampoo time to time around 1500 people.

Ten MISP training, 268 service providers trained, 51 of them are Syrian service providers. One EmOC training 14 Syrian service providers are trained. Only for June 2015 3,333patient are benefitted from SRH and GBV services at three UNFPA Women and girls safe spaces as counselling units. Very recently, 300,000 brochures for each of nine health and safe motherhood brochures and GBV brochures in Arabic (Total of 3 million brochures) has been printed and distributed to 16 most populated cities with Syrians in 2015.

UNFPA addresses gender-based violence in humanitarian settings with a wide range of services, including counselling, post-rape treatment, legal support, assistance with livelihoods, and support through its sexual and reproductive health programmes. UNFPA also incorporates violence prevention in its humanitarian response, reaching out to vulnerable adolescents and youth, sending messages to men and boys about gender equality, and working closely with faith-based networks and cultural leaders to reinforce support systems.

UNFPA Turkey opened Women and Girls safe spaces in Women’s centers and Community Centers for the most vulnerable groups of conflict.

UNFPA Turkey Representative Zahidul Huque states that “There are huge number of women and young people affected from the conflict that we and our partners move all our efforts to invest on vulnerable populations in need”

UNFPA is always there to make sure that the rights and needs of women and girls are at the forefront of humanitarian responses to maintain their dignity and restore safety and access to sexual and reproductive health as quickly as possible.