Women Face Escalating Risks during Iraq Crisis

With nearly one million people currently displaced throughout North and Western Iraq, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, warns that about 250,000 women and girls, including nearly 60,000 pregnant women, are in need of urgent care.

While an estimated 225 women will give birth every day, approximately 1,000 pregnant women each month will encounter life-threatening complications.

As the conflict escalates and security worsens, UNFPA is concerned that, as in any emergency, the vulnerability of women and girls to gender-based violence and exploitation will increase. According to estimates, 20,000 women and girls could face an increased risk of sexual violence.

“We must not wait for cases to be counted comprehensively and documented in detail before we act,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “We must act immediately to ensure that women and girls are protected from sexual violence.”

As health facilities are overstretched, UNFPA also expects that the number of unassisted childbirths may rise. As part of an assessment of the Erbil Maternity Hospital, UNFPA noted that the caseload has doubled since the beginning of the crisis, to up to 20 Caesarean cases every day – from 8 to 10 cases prior to the crisis – and more than 50 normal deliveries. Because of serious shortages in supplies, beds and staff, women who had delivered were being discharged from the maternity after just three hours.

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