UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell’s remarks on how to best respond to the disproportionate impacts of rising food insecurity on women and girls in humanitarian crisis – World

NEW YORK, September 22, 2022 – “Your Excellencies, Colleagues,

“Welcome to UNICEF House.

“Before we begin our discussions, I would like to thank Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, and Dame Pauline Tallen, the Honorable Minister for Women’s Affairs in Nigeria, for bringing this issue to global attention.

“Thank you to the Danish government for hosting this event and for your leadership in calling for action to protect against gender-based violence in emergencies.

“I also want to thank the UN and NGO leaders who are with us today to support women and girls living in humanitarian crises. And of course I want to thank our government partners and donors for their support.

“This conversation comes at a critical time as famine looms in the Horn of Africa and food and nutrition insecurity threatens girls and women in Africa, Asia and beyond.

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“As the global food crisis continues, women and girls are particularly vulnerable in many ways – including gender-based violence.

“While families struggle to cope, women and girls are more likely to be at risk of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, exploitation and forced marriage. The risks of gender-based violence for displaced women and girls can be even more acute.

“We are seeing this in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, where historic drought is fueling mass displacement and triggering a malnutrition crisis. In Somalia, there was a 20 percent increase in women and girls seeking gender-based violence services in drought-hit communities in the first half of 2022. In Ethiopia, child marriage rates more than doubled in a year.

“To make matters worse, gender-based violence — and the threat of such violence — can also prevent women and girls from accessing basic nutrition and health services for themselves and their families.

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“During an evidence review conducted by UNICEF this year, we found that women who experience intimate partner violence are less likely to breastfeed early and exclusively – and their children are more likely to suffer from stunting and wasting.


“As conflict and crisis escalate around the world, addressing gender-based violence must be an essential part of our humanitarian response across the board.

“Food and nutrition insecurity should be viewed through the lens of gender and addressed as a crisis on gender-based violence and protection. That means prioritizing the needs of women and funding efforts to address them through humanitarian response.

“Tackling gender-based violence and maternal feeding features prominently in UNICEF’s new strategic plan, as well as our core commitments to children, and informs both our humanitarian and development work.

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“Since 2018 we have increased the reach of our GBV programs by 2000 percent. We have also worked to reduce the risks of gender-based violence in all of our emergency and country programs.

“UNICEF’s commitment to addressing GBV in our programmatic work is complemented by intensive research and innovation initiatives. This helps us to develop effective mitigation strategies that address GBV in areas such as nutrition, WASH, health and education.

“Excellencies, colleagues, change is possible. With leadership in this space, we can put women and girls at the center of humanitarian action.

“Many Thanks.”

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Helen Wylie


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