ISLAMABAD—As part of its humanitarian response to Pakistan’s worst natural disaster in living memory, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is coordinating interventions to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) among the affected population.
Crises like the floods that inundated much of the country in August break down social networks and systems that normally protect women and girls, such as cohesive families, livelihoods, and safe shelter. Displacement creates a host of risk factors that increase the vulnerability of women and girls to many forms of violence.
The rights, needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls are sometimes overlooked in emergencies, when many humanitarian actors are focused on reaching a large number of people in the shortest period of time. There is a great need to recognize that GBV can, and very often does, occur in these situations and to build survivor-centered response services.
The subject is a sensitive one in most societies. In Pakistan, gender-based violence is particularly sensitive and rarely discussed. Programmes that address the problem do so discretely, but experts say there is a huge gap in service provision.
UNFPA has undertaken capacity-building initiatives in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa, Punjab and Sindh, introducing participants and future trainers from government and humanitarian agencies to basic principles of GBV programming and case management, using a confidential, survivor-centered, and comprehensive approach.
As part of a coordinated interagency response to the crisis, UNFPA and UNICEF are co-leading GBV response and prevention efforts. Coordination structures have been established in Islamabad and the key humanitarian hubs. The GBV team is seeking to identify additional service providers, set-up referral pathways and collect data on GBV trends and patterns.
UNFPA is also providing financial and technical support to organizations providing health care and psychosocial support to survivors of GBV in Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa. Donors have provided over $1 million to UNFPA to support such services.
Sara Raza Khan
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