Urgent efforts needed to protect women and girls: UNFPA

KATHMANDU: Disaster-affected women and girls are at heightened risk of rape, exploitation and abuse, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Issuing a statement on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day today, UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem said that reaching a camp or the places where humanitarian services are available does not necessarily eliminate these risks.

"A poorly lit lavatory or a water pump that is out of view of security officers can be dangerous places where women and girls can become targets for sexual violence. Where security is lacking, they may choose not to take advantage of services available to them," Dr. Kanem said, adding, "A pregnant woman who is about to give birth may face an impossible choice: deliver on her own or risk being attacked as she seeks the help of a nearby midwife or clinic. No woman should have to make such a decision."

According to her, sometimes the solutions are as simple as making sure critical services are situated in public areas that often the solutions require more concerted action to address underlying gender inequalities that perpetuate violence against women.

"On this World Humanitarian Day, I call on all humanitarian actors to meet our shared obligation to protect the vulnerable from harm, and especially to protect the rights, safety, health and lives of women and girls," the UN official said.

World Humanitarian Day is marked every year on 19 August to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by the crises.