Close to two million women of reproductive age are at risk in Somalia as the country copes with one of the worst droughts in decades, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), says in its end-of-year statement released December 30.
The consequences for girls and women are particularly acute, with many unable to get access to reproductive health services and many of them exposed to a higher risk of gender-based violence because of displacement from their traditional communities.
The UN agency is appealing for $63.1 million to support provision of critical services to women and girls during 2023.
“Across Somalia, approximately 2 million women of reproductive age have been affected, including more than 380,000 who are currently pregnant and in need of life-saving sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and information” said UNFPA Somalia Representative, Mr. Niyi Ojuolape in a statement the UN agency issued.
“Women and girls face increased risks of gender-based violence (GBV) due to multiple displacements, overcrowded and poorly-lit shelters and toilets in camps, and the need to travel long distances for necessities such as water, food, and animal feed,” Ojuolape says.
Child marriage has become rampant as families struggling with poverty surrender girls into early marriage. This has exposed “the girl child to the dangers of physical and sexual abuse, malnutrition, and an elevated risk of maternal and neonatal mortality,” the top UNFPA official in Somalia adds.
The agency further observes that the resulting increase in child marriages and sexual violence against women and girls has led to an increase in unwanted and high-risk pregnancies.
“Pregnant women who are displaced or forced to relocate are at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, including the risk of haemorrhaging after giving birth which can be fatal if not treated promptly in a hospital. Improved access and availability of health services, including rights-based family planning services, can help women and girls with timely treatment, referrals, and birth-spacing options,” the UNFPA warns further.