Press Release

UNFPA appeals for $113.7 million as women’s and girls’ needs soar in Horn of Africa

16 November 2022

New York, 16 November 2022 - UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, has launched an appeal for US$113.7 million to scale up life-saving reproductive health and protection services for women and girls in the Horn of Africa.

An unprecedented drought in the region has left more than 36 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, including 24.1 million in Ethiopia, 7.8 million in Somalia and 4.35 million in Kenya. Conflict, locust infestations and the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are worsening the effects of the extreme weather, pushing millions to the brink of starvation.

Whole communities are bearing the brunt of the crisis, but as is often the case women and girls are paying an unacceptably high price.

“As the food security situation continues to deteriorate in the Horn of Africa, women and girls are facing hunger and other serious threats to their health, rights and safety,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. “UNFPA’s priority is to safeguard access to life-saving reproductive health and protection services that are critical to the survival and well-being of women and girls.”

Thirst and hunger have driven more than 1.7 million people from their homes in search of food, water and basic services. The majority are mothers, often walking for days and weeks to escape the punishing drought. Perilous journeys on foot to displacement sites, flimsy makeshift shelters and longer distances to collect water are heightening their vulnerability to sexual violence, exploitation and abuse. Already pervasive gender-based violence is rising and, as families face desperate choices to survive, reports of girls dropping out of school, female genital mutilation and child marriage have all become more widespread.

Access to basic health services, including family planning and maternal health care, has been severely compromised across the region, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the more than 892,000 pregnant women who will give birth over the next three months. Malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women is acute, increasing their risk of severe, if not fatal, pregnancy complications. Devastating reports show mothers too weak to feed their babies.

“The current crisis has far-reaching impacts for women and girls across the region,” said Kanem. "We need to act now to save thousands of lives and provide women and girls with the essential support they urgently need and a chance at building a better future.”

As part of its appeal, UNFPA plans to:

  • Establish mobile and static health clinics to take reproductive health services to women and girls, including in displacement sites.
  • Increase community outreach for the provision of reproductive health services.
  • Deploy trained midwives to static and mobile clinics in areas where women and girls’ needs are greatest. In Somalia, midwives will be a key resource in delivering integrated reproductive health and protection services.
  • Strengthen referral systems and human resources to ensure pregnant women experiencing complications can access emergency obstetric care
  • Expand safe spaces, shelters, one-stop centres and hotlines to enable women and girl survivors of gender-based violence to access medical care and psychosocial support
  • Train healthcare providers to provide integrated reproductive health and protection services, including for the clinical management of rape
  • Distribute life-saving reproductive health medicines and supplies to health facilities and hospitals.
  • Provide basic hygiene items, including sanitary pads, to vulnerable women and girls.

UNFPA is working with UN agencies and local partners to scale up the delivery of life-saving reproductive health and protection services and is appealing for $113.7 million for its Response Plan for the Horn of Africa Drought Crisis 2022-2023 to respond to women and girls’ escalating needs.

For media, photos and B-roll of UNFPA Executive Director’s visit to Somalia.


UNFPA media contacts:
In New York: Zina Alam,; +1 929 378 9431 
In Johannesburg: Daisy Leoncio,; +1 347 491-9154
In Cairo: Samir Aldarabi,; +20 106 8484879

About UNFPA:
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, including voluntary family planning, quality maternal health care and comprehensive sexuality education. 

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