What you need to know:
- UN Women making efforts to ensure priority needs are addressed, specifically, safety and access to shelter, food, medicine, hygiene products, accommodation, water and power.
- Childbirth for many expectant women will be a life-threatening rather than a life-changing experience as they will lack the requisite maternal care because of the raging war.
About 90 per cent of the 10 million people displaced from Ukraine in the ongoing conflict with Russia are women and girls.
Most refugees comprise women, girls and children who have fled to neighbouring countries, and others displaced within the country. These numbers are expected to increase significantly as the offensive continues.
According to UN Women, women and girls who have fled to the neighbouring countries are increasingly being exposed to gender-specific risks such as trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and denial of access to essential services and goods.
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, in a statement, said reports of some of these risks becoming a reality have begun to surface.
This, she said, demands an urgent gender intentional response to ensure specific rights and needs of women and girls are prioritised.
Ms Bahous said they are making efforts to ensure women’s priority needs are addressed, specifically, safety and access to shelter, food, medicine, hygiene products, accommodation, water and power.
“We have directly allocated immediate funds to women’s civil society organisations, with more to follow, alongside additional funds coming through the United Nations Women, Peace and Humanitarian Fund for which UN Women is the secretariat,” said Ms Bahous.
She added their experience has shown that to prevent SGBV, it is imperative to investigate these crimes and hold perpetrators to account against these fundamental abuses of the rights of women and girls.
Women’s civil society organisations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries are trying their best to help meet these needs. Many of them have remained operational, committed to supporting Ukraine’s women and girls, increasingly at the risk of their own lives.
They are providing food and shelter, legal assistance, mental health support, and help for those evacuated and on the move.
They have echoed the UN Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) last month lamented that the war had disrupted access to maternal healthcare.
UNFPA estimates showed that 80,000 women would give birth in the next three months in Ukraine, many of them without access to critical maternal healthcare.
The UN agency noted childbirth for many expectant women will be a life-threatening rather than a life-changing experience as they will lack the requisite maternal care because of the raging war.
“Since Russia launched a military offensive in Ukraine, the world has seen the photographs of women giving birth in underground metro stations and newborns hastily being moved to makeshift bomb shelters as health facilities become inaccessible or too damaged to function,” the agency said in a statement.
UNFPA is tasked with promoting the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a healthy life and equal opportunity.
UN Women is also advocating the inclusion of women in the decision-making organs dealing with conflict prevention to significantly reduce vulnerabilities of women and girls in the ongoing war.
“As women continue to bear different and additional burdens of war, they must be represented in all decision-making platforms on de-escalation, conflict prevention, mitigation and other processes in pursuit of peace and security for the people of Ukraine and beyond,” UN Women statement adds.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month called for an end to the "absurd war" started by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.
"Continuing the war in Ukraine is morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical," Guterres told reporters in New York.
Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” on February 24, saying it aimed to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine.