2021: A look back at a year of assistance amidst adversity

A mother nuzzles her baby at a UNFPA-supported health facility in Venezuela. © UNFPA Venezuela
  • 21 December 2021

UNITED NATIONS – If 2020 was defined by the pandemic, 2021 was to be the year of the vaccine. Yet the promise of a world returning to normal, of faces unmasked and social lives resumed, remains just beyond reach –  and for some entirely elusive. With vaccines came inequality, apprehension, misinformation, mutations: with the close of another year, an uncertain one beckons.  

Embroidered cloth face masks hang on a laundry line.
Refugee women make and sell embroidered cloth masks in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Click on the image to see more. © UNFPA Bangladesh/Fahima Tajrin 

As the virus’ numbers crept up, so did those of its “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence, with millions of women and girls locked down in unsafe houses across the world. Meanwhile through mobiles and laptops, a torrent of digital violence was unleashed that saw no border controls. Outside, conflicts escalated and climate disasters intensified, making it ever more treacherous and complex to reach countless women and girls in need of vital sexual and reproductive health services.  

Still these seemingly insurmountable challenges were stared down by health workers, humanitarians, families and survivors. They brought help, inspired hope and made headway through innovations, global movements and solidarity – for the right to bodily autonomy for everyone. 

This is a look back at some of our favourite photos of the year, to remind us of the everyday but extraordinary heroism shown by those working to secure the health and rights of their community, and give us a glimpse of all we’ve got to look forward to.


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