This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”. In observance, this week USAID is profiling brave individuals and dynamic programs focused on addressing gender-based violence around the world.
Did you know that a woman or girl who has been raped has just 72 hours to access medical care in order to prevent HIV infection? The hours and days following rape are critical for women and men, and boys and girls to treat injuries related to the assault, prevent infection, and receive the basic emotional support that will allow them to recover and resume a full life. Now imagine the challenges that a rape survivor may face in accessing those basic services and support in situations where sexual violence is a daily risk, and where services and assistance are limited—or located miles away—as is the case in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo or South Sudan.
These challenges are real, and USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is committed to finding solutions to address gender-based violence (GBV) as a part of our humanitarian response to disasters. GBV, including rape, occurs in every country around the world, and we know that it increases in disasters and conflicts. In order to better respond, we’ve developed and are supporting new strategies to equip ourselves and our partners with the training and expertise to, not only quickly provide services for survivors, but also to help prevent violence in the first place.
This is one of the reasons why USAID has supported the work of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Over the past several years, IRC has helped raise the bar for GBV emergency response and preparedness by implementing pilot programs in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. USAID provided support for these programs to build on what we’ve learned about GBV and further strengthen our capacities to assist those in need.
The pilot programs in Haiti and DRC demonstrated that, through training and prepositioning materials, community workers and other humanitarian responders could quickly mobilize medical services and emotional support for GBV survivors. We saw the strongest evidence of the program’s success in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where despite an increased need, IRC found that staff and local partners were able to provide services to more GBV survivors thanks to these preparedness measures.
USAID is dedicated to moving forward with the wider humanitarian community to develop and implement a solid response in preventing sexual violence in emergencies, and fully responding to the needs of those affected by GBV. GBV is a significant problem around the world, but USAID is striving to ensure that women and girls are protected, and that the needs of survivors are met, in every disaster where we provide assistance.