Australia and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Maldives has signed a USD 300,000 (MVR 4.5 million) grant agreement to ensure the essential reproductive health and gender based violence information and remain accessible to women and girls in Maldives amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The grant agreement was signed by the Australian High Commissioner to Maldives David Holly and UNFPA Maldives’s Country Director Ritsu Nacken in a ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday.
According to a statement released by UNFPA Maldives, the grant assistance from Australia is expected to strengthen the Maldivian government’s response to ensure essential reproductive health and gender based violence services remain accessible to women and girls.
The funding will support the operationalization of two reproductive health centers in Male’ and H. Dh. Atoll to provide a holistic one stop platform to access services, build capacity of service providers to support gender based violence survivors, undertake advocacy and procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for reproductive health facilities across the country.
Speaking during the ceremony in Colombo, High Commissioner Holly expressed his support for the initiative.
“Australia is pleased to support UNFPA to provide services to women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic in Maldives. Globally, experience shows that domestic, sexual and gender based violence increases during crises and disasters. It is important that support services for women and girls in Maldives can now continue during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Meanwhile, UNFPA Country Director Nacken noted that the needs of women and girls are often neglected during emergency situations such as the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the COVID-19 response, we must recognize the gender differentiated impact of the pandemic. The needs of women and girls are often neglected in emergency settings. UNFPA continues to support the most vulnerable women and girls, whose protection and health needs must be at the center of response efforts to ensure no one is left behind,” she said.
UNFPA has noted that the rapid increase of coronavirus infections in Maldives has caused an additional strain on other support services delivered by the health system, and that the lockdown has triggered an increase in gender based violence as women and girls are placed in vulnerable situations – making the need to ensure the continued provision of reproductive health and gender based violence services all the more relevant.