Life-saving sexual and reproductive health services are more vital than ever, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said on Monday, launching an $835 million appeal to support people in crisis settings during 2022.
The objective is to reach more than 54 million women, girls and young people in 61 countries, amid rising needs due to conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges.
“It is critical to recognize that sexual and reproductive health services are not secondary to other forms of emergency services; they are lifesaving. And now, as the world grapples with multiple overlapping catastrophes, they are more vital than ever,” the agency said.
Reaching vulnerable people
Recent estimates reveal that every two hours, a woman there dies in childbirth, and a million pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished.
The appeal will support the vital work of people like Dr. Samar in the Jiah district in Yemen, who sees women in life-threatening danger far too often.
Recently, a woman called Safiya was brought to the clinic by her husband. She was in shock from an ectopic pregnancy.
“I told Safiya's husband about the need for an urgent surgical intervention to save her life,” Dr. Samar recalled. “His eyes were filled with tears, devastated…. [he said] ‘I don't have the money to hire a car to get to the hospital.”
The health centre where Dr. Samar works does not have an ambulance, and only recently resumed services after being forced to close for about a year due to lack of funding.
Fortunately, through UNFPA’s support, Dr. Samar was able to arrange for a car to take Safiya to the nearest hospital, located roughly two hours away.
Responding to needs
Stories like this are included in the report, which lists Syria as the country with the second greatest need for humanitarian funding for sexual and reproductive health services.
More than $68 million is required for services that include gender-based violence protection and response, and also to provide essential commodities such as dignity kits containing menstrual pads, soap and warm winter clothing.
Rounding out the top 10 list of countries with the highest humanitarian funding requirements are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Venezuela, Haiti, Bangladesh and Lebanon.
Help for Haiti
UNFPA reported that following the earthquake in Haiti this past August, gender-based violence, including rape and kidnapping, are widespread, which has increased the vulnerability of women and girls.
Taina Camy, a UNFPA expert on preventing and addressing gender-based violence, explained that displaced people are more vulnerable because they are no longer in their homes and are living among strangers. Furthermore, they do not have access to basic services, such as bathrooms.
“It’s difficult to listen to horrific stories of women who have been sexually abused,” she said recently.
“I spoke to an 89-year-old woman who had been raped by a group of young men and to the mother of a 3-year-old girl who had also been raped.”
UNFPA is providing counselling and medical services, and working with local organizations and authorities in Haiti to improve conditions for people affected by the earthquake.
The UN agency is also helping to restore health services, as many health facilities were damaged in the crisis.
Partnering with communities
UNFPA has supported millions of people worldwide during the course of this year.
Wherever possible, assistance is not deployed “top-down” into communities, the agency said, but rather delivered through partnerships with local women and young people.
So far, UNFPA has reached nearly 30 million women with sexual and reproductive health services in 2021. More than 4.3 million adolescents and young people also received services tailored specifically to them.
The UN agency also assisted in over 1.5 million safe deliveries, supported family planning services for another six million people, and ensured more than 2.4 million survivors of gender-based violence received psychosocial support, legal assistance and livelihood training.
Furthermore, at least two million people received personal protective equipment (PPE) so they can continue to provide frontline services during the pandemic.