Tigray women need immediate support

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New York, May 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – In the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, where conflict erupted last November, hundreds of thousands of women and adolescent girls are still in need of vital health, protection and support. Gross violations and abuses against civilians, including sexual violence, continue to be reported. The well-being of women and adolescent girls is further threatened by food insecurity, the spread of COVID-19 and the lack of fully functioning health facilities. To scale up the response, UNFPA is deploying more personnel, security reinforcements and supplies to provide life-saving services.

For more than 3.8 million people, access to services remains limited, while only 38% of health facilities are operational and only 29% have partial capacity to provide post-rape treatment. Maternal health services continue to be severely limited with comprehensive emergency obstetric care available in only 6% of health facilities in the region.

“The situation of women and adolescent girls in Tigray and in the border areas of Amhara and Afar remains dire,” said Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations agency for sexual health and reproductive. “We are seeing alarming levels of sexual violence and thousands of women do not have access to health and protection services.

UNFPA estimates that more than 110,000 women are currently pregnant and that more than 10,000 deliveries are expected each month. Of these, more than half (5,800) are likely to experience complications, with potentially fatal consequences, if access to emergency obstetric care is not made available as soon as possible.

“UNFPA calls for urgent support to protect the rights, safety and dignity of women and girls in northern Ethiopia,” said Dr Kanem. “Insecurity continues to hamper humanitarian access, making it difficult to reach people living in remote areas with life-saving assistance. We are in a race against time to save lives. ”

Due to the destruction and looting of health facilities, pregnant women are deprived of full access to health care and face an increased risk of maternal and newborn death.

“Women deliver on the move, in schools or in the bush, with only the help of other travelers or the host community. They arrive here malnourished and hungry, ”a site coordinator for displaced people in Mekele told a UNFPA colleague.

Despite recent improvements in access, active conflict in various regions restricts the humanitarian response. In IDP sites, pregnant and breastfeeding women suffer from malnutrition and many cannot breastfeed. Due to grief, trauma and exhaustion, most of them are in a state of severe psychological distress, which limits their ability to seek services.

The level of violence demands a strong mental health and psychosocial support response, in addition to immediate access to medical and protective services, including protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Humanitarian assistance is needed to meet urgent needs in Tigray and in the border regions of Ahmara and Afar. The Government opened humanitarian access to Tigray in early March, but the access situation remains fluid and constantly evolving. UNFPA is urgently working with humanitarian partners to provide immediate life-saving services to those most in need, including survivors of sexual violence, but much remains to be done. To date, UNFPA has:

  • Delivery of emergency reproductive health kits to meet the needs of more than 80,000 people with services for safe delivery, antenatal care, clinical management of rape and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including kits post-rape treatment for adults and children in the Tigray region.
  • Training of more than 300 health professionals in the clinical management of rape, gender-based violence in emergencies, protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA), as well as the whole of minimum initial services for sexual and reproductive health in crisis situations in Amhara and Tigray regions.
  • Distributed over 11,000 dignity kits to vulnerable women and girls in Tigray, Afar and Amhara, along with sanitary supplies and other essentials.
  • Distribution of personal protective equipment for COVID-19 prevention and risk mitigation in 7 health facilities and camps in the region.
  • Establishment of a toll-free national telephone line for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), with the Ethiopia Women Lawyers Association and Ethio Telecom, to provide vital support, advice and referrals to existing services, including in the Tigray region, in Amharic, Afaan Oromo and Tigrinya languages.
  • Provision of comprehensive GBV services, including post-rape treatment, prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, legal and psychosocial counseling and protection to survivors of GBV through the one-stop shop and shelter in Mekele, Tigray.
  • Training and deployment of 20 midwives to provide sexual and reproductive health services, including maternal health services, to 17 health facilities and IDP sites in Tigray and conflict border areas in Amhara regions and Afar.

UNFPA has a humanitarian presence in regional offices in Addis Ababa, Tigray, Amhara and Afar to oversee efforts in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights, prevention and response to gender-based violence, mental health and psychosocial support; and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

The current needs of women and girls exceed current UNFPA resources to provide a comprehensive response. UNFPA estimates that at least $ 12 million will be needed to scale up the humanitarian response to support the rights and dignity of women and girls.

Eddie Wright
+1 917  831 2074
[email protected]

Source: UNFPA

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