Across the world, choices are restricted for too many women, says UNFPA's flagship report, The State of World Population 2018, released today. The freedom to make decisions that affect one’s health and well-being is inextricably linked to reproductive rights. Where individuals and couples are unable to decide whether and when to have children, fertility rates are often high, making it harder for countries to provide essential services – including health care and education – that help people chart a path from poverty.
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"I am so scared. I can't even describe it," Ibu Fariati, 27, told UNFPA. On 28 September, Ms. Fariati's home collapsed in a 7.5-magnitude earthquake that, just 30 minutes later by some accounts, unleashed a 6-metre wall of water. The wave swept away Ms. Fariati's home - and nearly 70,000 others.
Humanitarian crises are taking an enormous toll around the world. More people are displaced today than at any time since World War II, and among those affected, women and girls are the most vulnerable. More than a quarter of the 100 million people in need of humanitarian assistance are women and adolescent girls of childbearing age, between 15 and 49. They face mounting risks and vulnerabilities, but have limited access to services and insufficient funding to meet their unique health and protection needs.
Zhanna*, 36, is an HIV-positive mother of two in the conflict-affected Donetsk Region of Ukraine. She says she contracted HIV from her former partner, a man who beat and raped her. Her candour about these issues is unusual; very few women are willing to speak out about experiencing violence or contracting HIV. Today is World AIDS Day, a time to recommit to stopping the spread of the disease.
“When I was young, I did not want to be cut,” said Aissata Camara, speaking at the High-Level Panel on Female Genital Mutilation, held during the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. “I am one of those 200 million girls who have been cut,” said the Guinean-American activist and co-founder of the There Is No Limit Foundation. “I am here to speak for the 68 million that are now at risk.” Female genital mutilation (FGM) is routinely practiced in 25 countries. In 2015, an estimated 3.9 million girls were cut.
Women and girls make up nearly half of the 258 million people worldwide who have crossed international borders to escape danger or pursue opportunity. Amidst unprecedented levels of forced displacement – with 68.5 million people driven from their homes by the end of 2017 – about half of refugees, too, are women and girls.
Typhoon Ompong (known internationally as ‘Mangkhut’) is one of the most devastating storms to hit the planet this year. On 15 September, the typhoon made landfall in the northern Philippines, bringing landslides, storm surges and flash floods. During natural disasters and other emergencies, pregnant women face life-threatening complications.
In the wake of the migration crisis and other humanitarian emergencies, women and girls are experiencing unconscionable trauma. Gender-based violence – including child marriage and forced pregnancy – exploitation, and trafficking often escalate during conflict, threatening the lives and well-being of women and girls around the world. Women and children account for roughly 75 per cent of those displaced by conflict. About 20 per cent are women of reproductive age.
UNAIDS, chair of the H6 partnership (six United Nations bodies working on health-related issues) and the African Union have pledged to enhance their collaboration to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence, prevent HIV, and protect women's health and rights in humanitarian settings.
In Nepal and throughout the developing world. According to UNFPA data, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 new cases of obstetric fistula develop each year. As the leader of Campaign to End Fistula, UNFPA provides technical guidance, medical supplies, training and funds for fistula prevention, treatment and social reintegration programmes. UNFPA also strengthens reproductive health care and emergency obstetric services to prevent fistula from occurring.