Press Release

Staggering challenges face 54 million women and young people as COVID-19 adds to humanitarian emergencies

07 December 2020

$818 million is needed to provide essential and life-saving services to women and girls affected by crises in 2021

UNITED NATIONS, New York, 7 December 2020 - UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, today launched its largest ever humanitarian appeal. Next year, UNFPA aims to reach 54 million women, girls and young people in 68 countries with critical assistance, including sexual and reproductive health care and services to prevent gender-based violence and support survivors. The total  appeal is for $818 million. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain global health systems, the disproportionate impact felt by women and girls in humanitarian crises has become increasingly evident. Lifesaving sexual and reproductive health services are being interrupted, gender-based violence (GBV) is skyrocketing, and the need for psychosocial support is rising.

“The rights and needs of women and adolescent girls in emergencies are often overlooked, and COVID-19 has made matters worse, with rising intimate partner violence, sexual violence and child marriage,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. “Whether she lives in a house or a tent in a refugee camp, every woman and girl has a right to peace in the home. Whether in a warzone, displaced or affected by natural disaster, she has a right to good health and wellbeing, and to live with dignity. Funding can spell the difference between life and death in a crisis. What's more, investments in women and girls and in their leadership improve prospects for sustainable peace, prosperity and development.”

Through this humanitarian appeal, UNFPA emphasizes the need to adapt and integrate services for sexual and reproductive health, GBV and mental health and psychosocial support during COVID-19. UNFPA also calls for more investment in local women-led organizations as well as youth organizations that work as frontline responders and changemakers. In addition, the appeal outlines how humanitarian assistance, sustainable development and peacebuilding are key pathways for recovery from COVID-19. 

In 2020, UNFPA worked with governments and partners to reach women and young people in crisis-stricken areas. Through this support and collaboration, we served:  

  • Over 7 million women in 53 countries with sexual and reproductive health services
  • 4.4 million people in 49 countries with family planning supplies and services 
  • 2.8 million people with services to address gender-based violence


UNFPA’s Humanitarian Action 2021 Overview highlights the world’s biggest crises for women and girls. Below is a snapshot of countries requiring UNFPA support:

Yemen: Humanitarian conditions in Yemen continue to deteriorate given the protracted political crisis complicated by internal displacement, food insecurity, outbreaks of cholera and now COVID-19. Over 80 per cent of the population, including more than a million pregnant women, many of whom are acutely malnourished, require some form of assistance. Only half of Yemen’s healthcare facilities remain functional, and reports of GBV are rising. 

  • UNFPA 2021 funding requirement: $100 million 

Syria: After a decade of conflict, the humanitarian situation in Syria remains dire. Over 11 million people require assistance, and close to 5.7 million people have taken refuge in neighboring countries. Disruption of community networks, a collapsing economy, and the COVID-19 pandemic have all led to a health and protection crisis in the country, especially for women and girls. UNFPA is working with partners to ensure continuity of services for sexual and reproductive health and GBV, and provision of essential supplies. 

  • UNFPA 2021 funding requirement: $81 million

Democratic Republic of the Congo: In DRC, UNFPA works with other UN agencies to promote peaceful coexistence between communities and address the structural causes of the intercommunal conflict, with a particular emphasis on women and young people. Moreover, UNFPA helped establish or scale up hotlines to provide life-saving assistance for survivors of GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • UNFPA 2021 funding requirement: $67 million

Sudan: Humanitarian needs in Sudan remain extensive, driven by flooding, displacement, economic challenges and outbreaks of disease, including COVID-19. Of the estimated 12.7 million people who require assistance, nearly 300,000 are pregnant women. Yet, fewer than one third of health facilities in Sudan offer emergency obstetric care. Availability of GBV services is also limited. UNFPA launched a GBV hotline in 2020 and is currently conducting a wide-scale GBV needs assessment in the country.

  • UNFPA 2021 funding requirement: $40 million 

Venezuela (and neighbouring countries): The pandemic and its economic impact have complicated the humanitarian situation in Venezuela and the surrounding host countries. Measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted access to basic services and caused tens of thousands of people who were living in neighbouring countries to return to Venezuela. UNFPA is working to ensure continuity of sexual and reproductive health services and reduce the risk of GBV among Venezuelan girls, women and host communities. 

  • UNFPA 2021 funding requirement: $27 million

Bangladesh: In addition to hosting one of the world’s largest refugee populations, Bangladesh is also highly vulnerable to climate-related disasters. Around 2 million people are expected to require humanitarian assistance in 2021, including Rohingya refugees, host community members and other disaster-affected populations. UNFPA provides life-saving sexual and reproductive health and protection services and supports 38 women-friendly spaces across the country, 23 of which are in Cox’s Bazar.

  • UNFPA 2021 funding requirement: $19 million


For more information

Please contact: Eddie Wright;; +1 917 831 2074

Photos can be found here.


UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. UNFPA's mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA calls for the realization of reproductive rights for all and supports access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services.  For more information about UNFPA and its work visit: 

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