By Babatunde Osotimehin
As I have stated before, I was shocked and appalled by the abduction of 276 young girls in Chibok in the north of Nigeria from the safety of their school.
These girls are our daughters and sisters. We therefore have the responsibility to demand for their safe return. And for us at UNFPA, we have the duty to ensure that they are fully reintegrated into their community, once they are back within their families, and to provide for their well-being.
Thus, UNFPA will be leading a coalition of partners to among others provide psychosocial therapy to stabilize the parents of the victims and prepare them to offer the necessary assistance to their children, when they are released. We will also provide immediate diagnosis and treatment to the victims to ensure total health, including their sexual and reproductive health.
We will initiate programmes that will encourage the girl’s reintegration to the educational system to enable them complete their education. Specifically in the coming days, UNFPA with a coalition of partners will build the capacity of a Core team in Borno on emergency Humanitarian Response in line with United Nations guidelines and also conduct a mapping and situational analysis to provide relevant information that will inform a robust response.
There is no doubt that the prevailing conflict in Northeastern Nigeria has had devastating impact on women and girls over the past year. Even prior to the current crisis, the situation was dire: only 43% of pregnant women accessed antenatal care; and almost 30% of women had experienced gender-based violence.
The abduction of the girls at Chibok and the situation of other women and girls in the region put them in a high risk situation to a variety of sexual and reproductive health issues, including increased rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV and hepatitis, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancies and psychosocial trauma.
UNFPA’s Country Office in Nigeria began to respond to the crisis in the region in late 2013. The intervention has aimed to restore access to essential reproductive health care for about 450,000 people, including 18,000 pregnant women in Borno and Adamawa States. We have provided psychosocial and medical services for survivors of sexual violence and monitored incidence of gender-based violence.
The tragedy of the abduction of the Chibok girls underlines that much more needs to be done. UNFPA is, therefore, urgently scaling-up its life-saving reproductive health and violence prevention and response interventions.
The main objective of this intervention is to provide for the sexual and reproductive health as well as socio-psychological well-being of the girls abducted at Chibok in the immediate post-release period as well as other girls that have had similar experiences since the beginning of the insurgence. Also of paramount and immediate importance is the need to support the parents and families of the abducted girls as the trauma they are presently undergoing is better imagined.
The coalition of partners and stakeholders that will work to implement this initiative met in Abuja last week and noting that structures and systems on the ground are already overwhelmed, resolved to work together under the coordination and leadership of UNFPA in conjunction with the Federal and Borno State Ministry of Health as well as Non Governmental Organizations.
The abduction of the girls has had a profound and terrible impact on the core of the Chibok community. The repercussions will undoubtedly be felt for years to come. It is our duty to support the girls, their families and their region every step of the way. This, we are committed to do, and we shall do!
Dr Osotimehin is the Executive Director of UNFPA,
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