News

#AWomanEvenHere: Arab women in humanitarian emergencies

21 February 2019

Wars are usually associated with images of violence and grief, with once-safe homes crumbling as tent cities go up. The sounds of bombing and wailing can easily drown out most other voices. Women become almost invisible, and their everyday needs might be too readily dismissed as secondary. 

“Everything you read about or see barely scratches the surface of what it is like to be a woman in such situations. They don’t stop being women when humanitarian disasters strike. They continue to menstruate, get married and divorced, get pregnant, and give birth,” said Luay Shabaneh, UNFPA director for the Arab region, “Protecting women’s reproductive rights should always be a priority, even here.”

To call for prioritizing women’s needs in humanitarian response, UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, is launching a “A Woman Even Here”: an eight-week campaign and an open call for partners, donors and the public to join our quest to protect women’s right to dignity, safety and wellbeing where it is most needed. During the course of the campaign, a series of documentaries will be released to tell the stories of five women from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Gaza to show a glimpse of the disproportionate burden women have to bear during humanitarian crises.

 

The campaign uses real-life stories to explore the faces and the lives behind the numbers. Only then can we truly appreciate how distressing women's experiences can be in humanitarian settings such as being on the move while pregnant, or having to give birth while cut off from all medical support, or enduring the loss of pride that results from something as simple as menstruating with no access to sanitary pads.

The Arab States region is home to some of the world’s worst conflicts and humanitarian disasters. Last year, Yemen was declared the worst humanitarian catastrophe globally. The Syrian crisis is entering its ninth year and continues to be the biggest source of refugees in the world. Palestine is suffering through the dire consequences of a decades-long occupation and a blockade that is effectively cutting Gaza off from the rest of the world. The list goes on to include Libya, Iraq and Somalia, as well as countries like Lebanon and Jordan where the conflict in neighboring Syria is causing a raging refugee crisis.

Meanwhile, over half of all maternal deaths happen in humanitarian and fragile settings. At any given moment, at least four percent of any population will be pregnant women, even in the midst of wars or fragile settings. Without adequate support, pregnancy and childbirth can become just as life-threatening for women as shells and bullets.

In 2018 alone, UNFPA was able to deliver life-saving reproductive health services, supplies and information in over 55 countries affected by humanitarian crises worldwide including in the Arab region. This included supporting existing medical facilities to provide emergency obstetric care, deploying mobile clinics to deprived areas, training midwives to serve in difficult-to-reach locations, procurement of life-saving medicines and equipment, establishment of women and girls’ safe spaces to provide protection services, and working with other humanitarian organizations as well as national and regional partners to advocate for prioritizing the needs of women and girls in humanitarian response.

Follow #AWomanEvenHere on Facebook and Twitter, and join our call to prioritize women’s needs in humanitarian response.