Statement of the Executive Director at the High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan

13 September 2021

Mr. Secretary-General,
Distinguished delegates

In Afghanistan, every two hours a woman dies from pregnancy-related complications; every two hours a motherless child is born.

As a humanitarian catastrophe looms, women and girls as always will pay a heavy price.

UNFPA is part of the coordinated effort on the ground, working with partners to maintain functional, lifesaving reproductive health and protection services, tending to women and girls in almost 200 Family Health Houses and Protection Centres and scaling up to meet new challenges, because Afghan women and girls must not be abandoned.

My message today: we must stand strong and stand together to protect the fundamental rights, freedoms and very lives of Afghan women and girls, and not allow 20 years of hard-won gains to be eroded before their eyes.

Neither religious beliefs nor politics must ever be used to justify curtailment of women’s full participation in all aspects of society. Afghan women and civil society fought hard to claim this right. Now more than ever, they need us in their corner.

If a woman is in labor and needs an emergency Caesarean delivery, or if she’s a victim of violence, she turns to UNFPA.

Our priority is the over 4 million women and adolescent girls desperate for assistance now, who count on female health and humanitarian workers to meet their unique needs.

There must be no restrictions on women’s movements and involvement in humanitarian activities.

The community-level service points UNFPA has operated for many years are mostly still open, still saving lives. That situation, however, remains fluid.

As part of the Secretary-General’s appeal, UNFPA seeks $29.2 million for essential services for women and girls. With your generous assistance, for example, UNFPA will reach 20,000 female-headed households with winterized dignity kits, including menstrual hygiene supplies.

Without the funding, perhaps decades of investment and achievements in reducing maternal mortality will be lost; thousands of mothers may die needless deaths; and thousands of women and girls may be exposed to all types of violence — with girls forced to abandon education, and instead married off against their will.

Desperately sought UNFPA family planning services could shrink by half, with millions of unintended pregnancies.

Honourable Ministers, distinguished delegates,

To Afghanistan’s women and girls, I affirm: We shall stand by your side and deliver.

Help us make good on this promise and fulfil their dreams of peace, dignity and a decent future – for themselves and coming generations.

Thank you.

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