Tigray region, UN urges halt to sexual gender-based violence

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22 March 2021

Attacks on civilians continue in the Tigray region, including rape and other forms of sexual violence.

On 22 March 2021, United Nations (UN) officials released a statement in which they called for a stop to “indiscriminate and targeted attacks against civilian, including rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence”. Signatories to the statement include Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mark Lowcock, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

They urged State and non-State parties to fulfill international humanitarian and human rights law obligations, by protecting civilian populations from all human rights abuses. Relevant data supported the statement. According to the UN officials, considering the 106 facilities in Tigray between December 2020 and March 2021, nearly 70% of them were looted, 30% were damaged, and only 13% of them were still functioning.

A particular emphasis has been given to women and children in conflict zones, who are reporting challenges in accessing health, social welfare and justice services. Rape survivors can only rely to one facility, which provides the full range of services for their clinical management. In addition, less than half of the facilities assessed provide fully available emergency contraception.

The statement ends by providing concrete solutions on how to prevent and respond to the grave human suffering resulting from this conflict. To begin with, SGBV should be independently investigated, with the involvement of the UNHCR. Secondly, humanitarian access should never be denied in conflict zones. Thirdly, GBV management should also include support for mental health and psychosocial needs as a consequence to the deep trauma experienced.

It is only through a concerted effort at all levels that the humanitarian response in Tigray will match the humanitarian needs.

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Author: Barbara Caltabiano

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