UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell on how best to respond to the disproportionate effects of rising food insecurity on women and girls in the humanitarian crisis

NEW YORK, September 22, 2022 – “Your Excellency, colleagues,

“Welcome to UNICEF House.

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

“We thank the Danish Government for hosting this event and for leading the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies.


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

“This speech comes at a critical time, with famine looming in the Horn of Africa and food and nutritional insecurity threatening girls and women in Africa, Asia and beyond.

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

“As families struggle to cope, women and girls are more likely to be exposed to sexual violence, spousal violence, exploitation and forced marriage. The risks of GBV to displaced women and girls may be even more severe.

“We see this in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, where historic drought has caused mass displacement and triggered a malnutrition crisis. In Somalia, there was a 20 percent increase in women and girls seeking GBV services in drought-affected communities. First half of 2022. Child marriage rates in Ethiopia more than doubled in a year.

“Worse, GBV – and the threat of such violence – can also prevent women and girls from accessing basic nutrition and health care for themselves and their families.

“During an evidence review UNICEF conducted this year, we found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence are less likely to engage in early and exclusive breastfeeding, and their children are more likely to experience stunting and wasting.

“His Excellency,

“With conflicts and crises escalating around the world, addressing GBV should be an important part of our board-wide humanitarian response.

“Food and nutrition insecurity must be viewed through a gender lens and addressed as a GBV and protection crisis. This means prioritizing women’s needs and funding efforts to address them. It also means ensuring the meaningful participation and leadership of women and girls in our lives. humanitarian reaction.

“Taking prominently the aspects of gender-based violence and maternal nutrition in UNICEF’s new Strategic Plan, as well as in our Core Commitments to Children – informs both our humanitarian and development work.

“We have increased the reach of our GBV programs by 2000 percent since 2018. We have also worked to reduce the risks of gender-based violence in all 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 create effective mitigation strategies that address GBV in the areas of nutrition, WASHING, health and education, among other sectors.

“Your Excellency, my colleagues, change is possible. With leadership in this room, we can put women and girls at the center of humanitarian aid.

“Thank you.”

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