UNFPA appeals for US $ 10.7 Million to meet urgent needs of Lankan women and girls affected by economic crisis

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In an effort to deliver life-saving healthcare to more than two million women and girls in Sri Lanka over the next six months, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has launched an appeal for US $ 10.7 million to cater to the vulnerable groups.

“The current economic crisis has far-reaching consequences for women and girls’ health, rights and dignity. Right now, our priority is to respond to their unique needs and safeguard their access to life-saving healthcare and protection services and support,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem in a statement yesterday, stressing the need for assistance for the island nation.

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst socio-economic crisis since independence. The country’s once robust healthcare system is teetering on the edge of collapse amid debilitating power shortages and a lack of critical supplies, equipment and medicine.

The UNFPA acknowledged this is severely impacting the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services, including maternal healthcare and access to contraception.

“The existing protection mechanisms for women and girls in need, including survivors of gender-based violence, have also been severely compromised,” the UNFOA cautioned.

A UN survey in May 2022 indicates women and girls’ vulnerability to violence is increasing at the same time as services, including health, police, shelter and hotlines, are declining, due to lack of financial resources to continue providing life-saving support.

The UNFPA is providing cash and voucher assistance to pregnant women to support access to health facilities and continues to build the capacity and skills of the extensive midwifery force across the country.

However, with infrastructure and transportation challenges, childbirth could be a life-threatening, if not fatal, experience for pregnant women unable to access skilled medical care, the agency said.

As part of its appeal, some of the plans of the UNFPA are to distribute life-saving medicines, equipment and supplies, including for emergency and obstetric care and clinical management of rape and domestic violence, to meet the priority reproductive health needs of 1.2 million people; supply 10,000 delivery, maternity and dignity kits to women and girls in need, including persons living with disabilities; provide more than 37,000 women with cash and voucher assistance to access life-saving reproductive health and protection services; ensure 500,000 women receive information on warning signs during pregnancy and support 12,500 women with livelihood programming to reduce the risks of gender-based violence.

The UNFPA’s response is part of the Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan launched by the UN in Sri Lanka, which calls for US $ 47 million to provide life-saving assistance to 1.7 million people between June and September 2022.