International Women’s Day 2019: women and girls in Yemen

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and girls worldwide, and today we think gratefully of the countless inspirational women who have come into our lives through the work of MOAS. However, today is also a chance to highlight some of the challenges faced by the world’s most vulnerable women, particularly in the context of humanitarian crises. This year, MOAS is joining the call to protect basic human rights and access to healthcare for women and girls in Yemen, who face deadly threats on a daily basis.

Last month, the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crisis published an eye-opening report calling on the international community to invest in reproductive health services for Yemeni women and girls. As this report highlights, women in Yemen must deal with the complex insecurities of conflict, while living with increasingly insufficient support for their own health and wellbeing.

Reuters Khaled Abdullah 2016                 Reuters / Khaled Abdullah 2016

With the general deterioration of health services, women’s health has been dramatically deprioritised, making it incredibly challenging for women to access crucial reproductive services. This is devastatingly evident in the sharp increase in maternal mortality rates, which have risen since 2015 from 148 to 385 deaths per 100,000 births.

Gender-based violence is by no means a new threat to Yemeni women, but war has made their situation more desperate. Gendered violence rose by a staggering 70% during the first five months of this conflict, while child marriage rose by 66%. Moreover, violence against women and girls has led to a rise in unwanted pregnancies and infections which this war-torn country is poorly equipped to handle.

Food insecurity in Yemen has also worsened the situation for women. An estimated 1.1 million pregnant or breastfeeding women are malnourished, which leaves them and their children highly vulnerable to illness. Despite the urgency of these issues, women and girls in in Yemen are still critically underserved by the international humanitarian response.

MOAS recognises the vital importance of supporting women in conflict. Our mission to Yemen recognises the unique struggles of women in war zones and aims to enhance women’s health through family planning and nutritional support.

ICRC Mohammed Yaseen

ICRC / Mohammed Yaseen 2016

Our ongoing pharmaceutical aid delivery to the port of Aden will include roughly €72,000 worth of medical supplies intended to combat maternal mortality, including contraception and pregnancy tests. Our delivery will also include around €10,000 worth of iron and vitamin supplements, which will be crucial given that some 71% of pregnant or lactating women in Yemen are anaemic.

On International Women’s Day 2019, we call on the global humanitarian community to prioritise the urgent health needs of Yemeni women and girls, to ensure that life-saving assistance is delivered where it is most needed.

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