In 2020, UNFPA witnessed the greatest humanitarian crisis since the organization’s creation 52 years ago: the COVID-19 pandemic. This public health catastrophe brought with it socioeconomic, political and human rights crises, doubling the global need for humanitarian assistance from the previous year. Women and girls bore many of the worst impacts. We saw this in our work. Health systems were strained. Supply chains were disrupted. Many programmes and services were driven to a halt. Globally, a United Nations survey found 7 in 10 countries experienced disruptions in contraceptive services. UNFPA offices reported stark increases in domestic violence cases and calls for help amid lockdowns and movement restrictions. Disrupted services and increased vulnerabilities are projected to result in 2 million more cases of female genital mutilation and an additional 13 million child marriages within the next decade that would otherwise have been averted.
But UNFPA rose to the challenge.
With ingenuity and flexibility, we ramped up distribution of personal protective equipment and training in infectious disease control. Many disrupted programmes and services were restored, and 74 per cent of UNFPA programme countries were able to maintain or expand family planning services at the community level. Ninety-one per cent maintained or expanded interventions to prevent gender based violence. The crisis is far from over. We know the road ahead will be long and hard. But we also know that we can deliver progress even amid world-shaking adversity. With solidarity and support, we can transform the future for women and girls.