Statement by the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
As I have stated before, I was shocked and appalled by the abduction of 276 young girls in Chibok, in the north of Nigeria, from the safety of their school.
These girls are our daughters and sisters. We therefore have the responsibility to demand their safe return. And for us at UNFPA, we have the duty to ensure that they are fully reintegrated into their community, once they are back with their families, and to provide for their well-being.
Thus, UNFPA will be leading a coalition of partners to, among other activities, provide psychosocial therapy to stabilize the parents of the victims and prepare them to offer the necessary assistance to their children, when they are released. We will also provide immediate diagnosis and treatment to the victims to ensure their health, including their sexual and reproductive health. We will initiate programmes that will encourage the girls’ reintegration into the educational system to enable them to complete their education. Specifically, in the coming days, UNFPA, working with a coalition of partners, will build the capacity of a core team in Borno on emergency humanitarian response, in line with United Nations guidelines, and also conduct a mapping and situational analysis to provide relevant information that will inform a robust response.
There is no doubt that the prevailing conflict in Northeastern Nigeria has had a devastating impact on women and girls over the past year. Even prior to the current crisis, the situation was dire: only 43 per cent of pregnant women accessed antenatal care, and almost 30 per cent of women had experienced gender-based violence.
The abduction of the girls at Chibok and the situation of other women and girls in the region put them at a high risk of facing a variety of sexual and reproductive health issues, including increased rates of sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV and hepatitis, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancies, and psychosocial trauma.
UNFPA’s country office in Nigeria began to respond to the crisis in the region in late 2013. The intervention has aimed to restore access to essential reproductive health care for about 450,000 people, including 18,000 pregnant women in the Borno and Adamawa states. We have provided psychosocial and medical services for survivors of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, and we continue to monitor incidences of gender-based violence.
The tragedy of the abduction of the Chibok girls underlines that much more needs to be done. UNFPA is, therefore, urgently scaling-up its life-saving reproductive health and violence prevention and response interventions.
The coalition of partners and stakeholders that will work to implement this initiative met in Abuja last week and, noting that structures and systems on the ground are already overwhelmed, resolved to work together under the coordination and leadership of UNFPA, in conjunction with the Federal and Borno State Ministry of Health as well as non-governmental organizations.
The abduction of the girls has had a profound and terrible impact on the core of the Chibok community. The repercussions will undoubtedly be felt for years to come. It is our duty to support the girls, their families and their region every step of the way. This, we are committed to do, and we shall do!