African Union Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference

27 May 2022

Speech by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem at the African Union Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Your Excellency, President of Angola, Chairperson of the session,

Your Excellency, Presidente de Guinea Ecuatorial,

Your Excellency Chairperson of the African Union Commission,

Heads of State and Government,

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

It is an honour to address this Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit of the African Union. UNFPA, a steadfast partner of the African Union, joins your efforts to step-up life-saving humanitarian assistance.

Conflict, COVID-19 and climate change are causing devastation in Africa, resulting in unprecedented humanitarian needs. The humanitarian situation is compounded by the war in Ukraine, with spillover effects felt in Africa and globally.

As always when crisis strikes, it is women and girls who pay the heaviest price.

They face increased risk of unintended pregnancy and maternal mortality. Sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, are unconscionably wielded as weapons of war.

This year alone, over 61 million people will require assistance and protection in the West and Central Africa region. Millions more have been displaced across Eastern Africa, which recorded 4.7 million refugees last year.

UNFPA welcomes the African Union’s bold decision to establish an African Humanitarian Agency that will prepare for, and address the ever-growing humanitarian needs on the continent.

We support the Union’s efforts to prioritize those people most vulnerable, including women, adolescents and young people. Too often, their needs are overlooked.

And on behalf of UNFPA, I express our sorrow and condolences to the nation of Senegal on the tragic loss of the eleven newborns.

Africa’s leaders have long advocated for African solutions to African problems — and rightly so. By establishing the African Humanitarian Agency, the African Union is walking the talk, responding to the needs and aspirations of its people.

UNFPA pledges to support the Agency’s operationalization with data support; the procurement of dignity kits and hygiene kits; safe motherhood modalities; and treatment and psychosocial support for women and girls traumatized by gender based violence — in accordance with our mandate and with emphasis on women’s leadership. All to help realize the African Union’s vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its citizens.”

UNFPA is fully committed to help build the Africa We Want.

I conclude with this proverb from Equatorial Guinea: A river that forgets its source will soon dry up.

Let us not forget Africa’s most precious resource – its women and young people!

Let us ensure we prioritize women and young people in humanitarian prevention, response, recovery and development, and in peacebuilding.

Asanteni sana. Muchísimas gracias.

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