UNICEF calls for protection of girls in emergencies across Sub-Saharan Africa

(EBC; October 11, 2017)- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday called for protection of children trapped in emergencies across Sub-Saharan Africa.

In a statement issued to mark the International Day of the Girl, UNICEF said millions of girls in the Eastern and Southern African region continue to be denied their basic rights amid the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, a protracted crisis in Somalia, and unrelenting drought in the Horn of Africa.

"In conflict situations, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys, and more girls are likely to be victims of child marriage. All of us in society must do all that we can to protect girls from any form of violence and abuse," said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF's Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Pakkala's statement comes as the world on Wednesday marked the International Day of the Girl whose theme is "Empower girls: Emergency response and resilience planning."

According to UNICEF, every ten minutes a girl dies as a result of violence, highlighting the challenges millions of girls face before, during and after crises.

Empowering girls, said UNICEF, requires focused investment and collaboration between emergency preparedness, emergency response and development sectors.

"When girls are provided with services and safety, education, and skills, they are better placed when a conflict or disaster strikes," the UN agency said.

According to UNCIEF, approximately 535 million children -- nearly one in four worldwide -- were living in countries affected by conflict, natural disasters, and other emergencies in 2016. Three quarters of these children live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

"In times of emergency and crisis, girls are disproportionally affected by gender-based violence, and at a high risk of abuse, exploitation and trafficking," said Pakkala.

UNICEF said the level of sexual and physical violence against South Sudanese girls has been greatly intensified by the current conflict.

"UNICEF's ongoing support in the country includes the training of more than 350 people on how to report sexual exploitation and abuse, and support to the establishment of 16 safe spaces for women and girls," it said.

The UN children's agency said the situation is also difficult in the aftermath of natural disasters, where girls have fewer resources, less mobility, and more difficulty accessing life-saving information and networks.

"In response to the prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa, UNICEF and partners are working to make sure that girls have equal access to services."

UNICEF has reached more than 2.1 million people affected by the drought in Ethiopia with safe water through water trucking, rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of new water points.

"This means that girls are likely to spend less time collecting water, and they will not have to walk long distances, ultimately reducing risks," it said.

Source: Xinhua