Remarks by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem at the Launch of UNFPA Humanitarian Action Overview 2023

13 December 2022

Distinguished delegates and panelists,

In Somalia just a few weeks ago, I met displaced women and children at a camp near the border with Ethiopia. The women had walked for days and weeks across a parched landscape. They were in search of food, of water and of safety.

They told me about the dangers and hardships they face continually amid the unrelenting conflict and ever-present hunger. It was heartbreaking. They asked me to help them get increased support because they need it urgently.

Already elevated rates of maternal mortality could soar even higher if pregnant women can’t access the care they need. Incidents of gender-based violence are rising. That leaves many women traumatized and in desperate need of services to help them heal and protect their dignity.

As humanitarian crises escalate all around the world, it’s always women and girls who are paying an unacceptable price.

Globally, women and children are the vast majority of the more than 103 million people who are forcibly displaced from their homes due to persecution, to violence, to natural disasters, and to human rights violations. They face a deepening health and protection crisis due to the converging challenges of climate change, armed conflict, rising food insecurity, and the global economic downturn, all of which is devastating for women, many of whom are heads of household and devastating for ever so vulnerable girls.

UNFPA is calling for priority increased investment in the health and protection of women and girls affected by crises. With humanitarian needs growing, it’s up to all of us to ensure that sexual and reproductive health services, adequate nutrition, and protection from gender-based violence become integral and automatic to every humanitarian response.

UNFPA delivers for women and girls in the hardest-to-reach places.

For instance, I’m now able to announce that, as we speak, 10 truckloads of much-needed reproductive health supplies, equipment and medicine are arriving in the Tigray region of Ethiopia – the first shipment of such supplies to Tigray in a long time due to prior lack of access.

And in Afghanistan, in Central Highlands, the least developed part of the country, UNFPA-supported midwives are heroically delivering services at family health houses. UNFPA is constantly listening to women and young people in the community and bringing them together to provide valuable feedback on our programming and our training.

In 2022, UNFPA lifesaving assistance reached over 30 million women, girls, and young people in more than 60 countries.

Next year, in 2023, UNFPA is appealing for $1.2 billion US dollars, essential for us to bring lifesaving services and protection to the doorsteps and the tents of 66 million women, girls and young people in 65 countries.

We are determined to scale up UNFPA humanitarian operations, and to localize our response. I’m proud to tell you that 38% of UNFPA humanitarian funds go directly to local partners, often women-led.

As the United Nations lead agency for addressing gender-based violence in humanitarian settings, UNFPA is working closely with such women-led organizations to identify sustainable solutions.

These groups are actively involved in decision-making. The women know the culture, they understand the situation and they can provide appropriate solutions for the people we’re trying to help. We act together in partnership on what we learn.

Lamentably, humanitarian funding for gender-based violence prevention and response remains very low, totaling just 13 percent of funding required on the ground.

Your flexible funding makes a huge difference in bridging the gaps. We count on your steadfast support. It’s only through our generous donor partners that UNFPA can continue this vital work.

In the spirit of that allyship, I share this East African proverb: Umoja ni nguvu. In unity, there is strength.

I say this in tribute to your international solidarity, in recognition of the strong financial and political support coming from UNFPA’s many magnanimous friends. We at UNFPA depend upon your generosity. Please help, because in times of humanitarian crisis, women and girls depend on you to maintain their hope and to keep moving forward.

Thank you.

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