Foreword by the Executive Director
The year 2018 was another challenging period for millions of women and girls whose lives have been upended by conflict, hazards, pandemics and displacement.
A staggering 136 million people needed aid, an estimated 34 million of whom were women of reproductive age; 5 million of those women were pregnant.
Women do not stop giving birth when a conflict breaks out or a disaster strikes. Whether they live or die in emergencies depends on whether they can access basic sexual and reproductive health services and be protected from harm. We know by now that reproductive health and family planning services, and protection from violence, save lives in emergencies. They are as essential as food and shelter.
Whether in response to the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, new Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the devastating and protracted crises in South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, UNFPA response teams were quickly on the ground saving lives and restoring dignity and hope. Globally in 2018, UNFPA provided services to an estimated 18 million women, girls and young people in 56 countries. This assistance included providing women-friendly spaces, for example, to Rohingya women and girls living in displacement camps; treating survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and running a maternity clinic in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where UNFPA has overseen more than 10,000 safe deliveries with zero maternal deaths since the facility opened five years ago.
We expect comparable challenges in 2019, with nearly 132 million in need of humanitarian assistance and protection globally. UNFPA aims to reach about 35 million women, girls and young people with life-saving sexual and reproductive health services and interventions to prevent gender-based violence and respond to the needs of survivors.
While maternal deaths are declining globally and more women have access to family planning, inequalities and gaps persist. These are worsened by the unprecedented frequency, complexity, intensity, duration and scope of humanitarian emergencies today.
Humanitarian crises continue to take a disproportionate toll on women and girls. Some 500 women and girls die each day from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth in countries facing humanitarian and fragile contexts. Gender-based violence, already widespread in times of peace, is exacerbated during crises and continues to be one of the most pervasive human rights violations.
UNFPA women-friendly spaces can provide a sense of peace and serenity even in the midst of turmoil.
In 2019 we mark 25 years since the governments of 179 countries adopted the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). At the heart of this groundbreaking agenda is the commitment to promote reproductive rights and provide information and services so that individuals and couples can decide freely whether, when and how often to have children.
The agenda remains relevant to this day. It continues to guide the work of UNFPA, which will also celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019. The ICPD Programme of Action is integral to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The two go hand in hand, as must all our efforts across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus.
Prioritizing life-saving sexual and reproductive health and protection services requires a change of mindset about how we carry out global humanitarian action.
One thing is clear: The health and rights of women and girls must no longer be treated as an afterthought. It’s time to put them at the forefront of humanitarian action and cater to their specific needs.
Dr. Natalia Kanem UNFPA Executive Director