‘Women humanitarians risking their lives to help others’

Kathmandu, August 19

Women humanitarians are uniquely positioned to reach and assist disaster-affected women and girls putting their own lives at risk, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

Issuing a statement today on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem said women humanitarians protected human rights and dignity. “The courage and commitment of women humanitarians, who assist people amidst conflict, disasters and displacement, must be respected,” she said.

“When crisis strikes, women and girls are disproportionately affected and face increased risk of gender-based violence. Health facilities are often damaged or destroyed, leaving women, including pregnant women, without life-saving care. The fundamental needs of women and girls that allow them to uphold their dignity are often an afterthought,” Dr Kanem said, adding that the leadership of women and young people was often excluded from the peace process.

Thus, women from communities and civil society who step up to stop gender-based violence, counsel survivors, provide services and oversee preparedness, response and recovery must be honoured, the UNFPA chief noted. This November, the international community, including a Nepal delegation, will gather in Nairobi to mark 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development.

Co-convened by UNFPA and the governments of Kenya and Denmark, the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 aims to garner political and financial commitments that will, in part, ensure that lifesaving services are available to women and girls affected by crises.

“We cannot leave any woman or girl behind. I call on all governments to join us for the Nairobi Summit to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian settings and help prevent and respond to gender-based violence on the frontlines,” Dr Kanem said.