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Investing in the health and protection of women and girls in humanitarian crises: UK Statement at UNFPA Humanitarian Action 2023 Overview

Thanks very much, good morning, and good morning to all colleagues on the call.

First of all, let me just thank Executive Director Kanem and UNFPA staff for everything they do to provide life-saving services to the millions of women and girls in crisis-affected countries. You have the UK’s full admiration and support.

We are faced with a sobering picture and a bleak trajectory. In 2023, 339 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance. Conflict and crises are increasingly trapping marginalised people, in particular women and girls, in cycles of vulnerability.  70% of women in crisis settings experience gender-based violence; adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90% more likely to be out of school; and 60% of preventable maternal deaths take place in conflict, displacement and natural disaster settings. These are not just numbers. They represent individual lives.

It is why the UK funds humanitarian efforts aimed at the health and protection of women and girls. It is why UNFPA’s work is so critical. The UK is proud to be one of your top humanitarian donors, supporting life-saving Gender Based Violence (GBV) and sexual and reproductive health interventions this year in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Ukraine. We are also proud to be the largest donor to UNFPA’s Supplies Programme, ensuring contraceptives and life-saving maternal, new-born and child health commodities reach those most in need.

But it’s not just about funding. The UK uses all levers at our disposal to ensure the health and protection of women and girls, including our convening power. Just two weeks ago, at the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Conference in London, we led efforts to strengthen the global response to conflict related sexual violence, including through prevention, justice and accountability and support to survivors. Alongside our partners, we committed:

  • First, to strengthen humanitarian responses to gender-based violence (GBV), including by ensuring access to clinical management of rape and by championing the Call to Action on Protection from GBV in Emergencies;
  • and, second, to ensure access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health, including safe abortion, at the outset and throughout crises.

We are grateful to you, Dr. Kanem, and UNFPA colleagues for engaging in the conference and using your platform to highlight the critical role of women-led organisations in preventing GBV and supporting survivors’ access to SRHR and GBV services, including the life-saving role of safe abortion emergencies. The UK is committed to bolstering our support to local, women-led organisations – the true experts on the needs of their communities.

The UK’s aim is to strengthen people’s ability to recover from crises, to protect and prioritise the most vulnerable when crises occur, and to amplify the voices of the most marginalised, in particular women and girls, to ensure their needs are met.

Only if we work collectively can we better prepare, take early action and respond to safeguard the rights, health and lives of women and girls in emergencies. We have seen first-hand the critical role UNFPA plays in this regard, and I urge other donors to continue to step up so that UNFPA has the funding it needs to continue leading the global response to GBV in emergencies and to prepare and respond flexibly when those crises hit.

Thank you very much.

Source: GOV.UK