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UNFPA seeks better deal for women, girls during emergencies


UNFPAA new study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has urged an end to what it described as ‘business as usual approach to humanitarian assistance.’

The report also highlighted how pregnant refugees were being overlooked, noting that the essential health needs of women had often been neglected in assistance after natural disasters and conflicts.

The document, ‘State of World Population 2015’ and entitled ‘Shelter from the Storm’ showed that of the 100 million people in need of humanitarian assistance around the world today, about 26 million are women and adolescent girls in their child-bearing years.

It set a new agenda for humanitarian response to step up support for millions left behind.

“The health needs of women and adolescents are too often neglected in humanitarian response to natural disasters and conflicts around the world, even though whether women and girls live or die in a crisis often depends on access to basic sexual and reproductive health services like midwives and HIV prevention,” UNFPA said.

The report stressed that sexual and reproductive health services critical to the health and survival of women and adolescents were scarcest at the direst moment.

Three-fifths of maternal deaths today are said to occur in countries considered fragile because of conflict or disaster.

UNFPA’s Executive Director, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, said in a statement ahead of the report launch that pregnancy and childbirth kill 507 women every day under the current circumstance.

He noted: “The health and rights of women and adolescents should not be treated like an afterthought in humanitarian response. For the pregnant woman who is about to deliver, or the adolescent girl who survived sexual violence, life-saving services are as vital as water, food and shelter.”

Without the usual protection of family and community, the report stressed that women and adolescents were more vulnerable to sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections like HIV.

“Basic needs for safe childbirth, family planning and reproductive health care are rarely met when women and adolescents become untethered from the lifeline of health systems,” he added.

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