New York: The World Health Organisation (WHO) organized aside event during the sixty second session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York recently, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Women and the Arab League, to shed light on the plight of women and girls exposed to violence in humanitarian settings in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The session attracted a diverse audience from across the globe and was attended by a large number of young people, a WHO report today said.
Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director UNFPA, was the keynote speaker of the side event, in which Mohammad Naciri, Director, UNWomen Regional Office for Arab States also spoke.
Dr Maha El-Adawy, Director of Health Protection and Promotion,provided a short statement on behalf of the WHO Regional Director of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Mr Simon Bland, Director, UNAIDS, Liaison Office in New York, and Dr Mohamed Edrees, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations, and the current Chair of the Group of 77 and China, also provided remarks supporting women and girls in humanitarian settings.
The side event focused on the health and other consequences of violence against women and girls in development and humanitarian contexts, as well as joint United Nations efforts to scale up action towards a survivor-centred, coordinated and comprehensive response and extend it to humanitarian situations.
In humanitarian and emergency contexts, violence against women and girls is exacerbated by increased vulnerabilities and risks. The exact burden is not known, as systematized data on such violence are generally scarce and difficult to collect. This is further complicated by the lack of monitoring systems in emergency settings.
Studies of violence against women and girls, in particular in emergency contexts, also remain sporadic and the methodologies usedare not always comparable, which could, at times, lead to contradictory data. All these factors hamper the ability to plan for and provide the appropriate targeted response where and as needed.
Despite the under-reporting, fragmentation and incompleteness of data, available information is sufficient to warrant urgent action.
There is clearly an urgent need and increasing demand to address the whole spectrum of violence to which women and girls are exposed in different emergency settings.
Health professionals play a critical role in these settings. Health is a culturally and socially appropriate entry point to address this issue. Health care professionals are at many times the first, if not the only, point of professional contact at which women and girls subjected to violence can be supported and protected.
Inadequate access to multisectoral and coordinated health services in emergency and humanitarian contexts, warrants more attention in terms of integration of essential health services and psychosocial support, including counselling in primary health care services and at the community level. Community health care providers are familiar faces that are more likely to be trusted by survivors compared to external providers.
It is imperative that health care providers, in particular midwives and community-based health care providers, have the capacity to identify and appropriately document cases of gender-based violence, as well as provide the required safe and comprehensive support and care.
Besides providing immediate health care, the health sector is also a gateway for referral to other services for survivors, including legal and social services. This approach may well help to reduce the burden of domestic violence and its consequences and to adequately respond to survivors’ needs and fulfil their rights.
The event is a small first step towards scaling up collective efforts, both at the global and regional level, to incorporate health services for women and girls subjected to gender-based violence in the essential health response in emergencies.
Without striving to reach these women and girls with theappropriate health services, we cannot claim to be realising our common goal of "leaving no one behind" and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly health-related Goal 3 and Goal 5 on gender equality. (UNI)