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Statement on Safeguarding Women and Girls in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

UNFPA, Yangon, 29 November 2016 — UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is calling for urgent safeguarding of the health and protection of women and girls in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. All women in Rakhine, including all ethnic and religious minorities, must be given access to healthcare and other essential services without discrimination, and they must be protected from all forms of violence, including sexual assault. It is imperative that the violence stops.

There are currently an estimated 40,000 pregnant women in the areas affected by conflict since 2012. Some 7,600 of these women in the Maungdaw and Buthidaung areas have had no access to basic and primary health services for almost two months.

During pregnancy and childbirth, obstetric and midwifery care make the difference between life and death, between health and life-long disability. Without access to skilled care and life-saving medicines, thousands of women are left helpless when there are complications such as bleeding and infection.

The health, protection and hygiene needs of women and girls in northern parts of Rakhine State are acute. To overlook them has grave consequences. If women cannot access contraceptives, they face unwanted pregnancy and childbirth in destitute and dangerous conditions. When people are isolated or on the run, protective mechanisms within families and communities break down, and women become more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. And whether there is conflict or peace, women and girls continue to have female hygiene needs, not least during pregnancy, childbirth and menstruation.

As the United Nations works to obtain access to the conflict-affected areas, UNFPA stands ready to distribute life-saving medicines and supplies for safe pregnancy and childbirth, as well as contraceptives, female hygiene and dignity kits, HIV post-exposure drugs, post-rape treatments and psychosocial support. UNFPA is working with local authorities and partners towards the resumption of maternal health services, as well as assistance to prevent and respond to violence against women.

UNFPA is committed to safeguarding the rights and dignity of women and girls in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, regardless of their ethnic or religious identity.