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Statement by UNFPA Executive Director

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin

on World Humanitarian Day 2013


Earlier this year, I met Muneera Sha’aban in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan. A 65-year-old midwife, Muneera retired years ago, but every day at 6 am, she embarks on the two-hour bus journey from Jordan’s capital, Amman, to the camp near the Syrian border.


Muneera trains midwives working in the camp and supervises them in UNFPA supported clinics which provide antenatal, obstetric, delivery and postnatal care. Nearly 15,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan will likely be pregnant this year. Muneera’s skills and knowledge mean the difference between life and death for pregnant women and their newborns.


Today, on World Humanitarian Day, we pay tribute to humanitarian workers serving under difficult conditions and we remember those who lost their lives while helping to deliver a better world. We honour their memory by celebrating colleagues like Muneera who continue to provide aid, no matter the risks and sacrifices.


Whether in Syria, Mali or the Philippines, or any other crisis situation, UNFPA staff and partners do all they can to ensure that the unique needs of women and girls are factored into all humanitarian assistance. Not only do we protect the lives of mothers and their newborns, but we also provide medical care and social support for survivors of gender-based violence and put in place mechanisms to prevent further attacks.


Over the years, UNFPA has committed important resources to make humanitarian response a priority. We will continue to increase our presence whenever a crisis hits and wherever women and girls are vulnerable.


This year the World Humanitarian Day campaign asks us: “What do you think the world needs more of?” For UNFPA, there is no doubt: the world needs more choices. Indeed, women and girls, who make up more than half the world, must be able to make informed choices about their health, their bodies and thus the future of their lives, families and communities. When an emergency strikes, what choices do pregnant women have if they cannot reach a health facility to deliver safely? What choice does a 12-year old girl have when forced to marry an older relative?


UNFPA aims to provide women and girls made vulnerable by crises with choices by ensuring that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.***

Tags: humanitarian