Partnering to protect women in crisis

Women often shoulder the greatest burden in modern conflicts and crises. Women and children are disproportionately affected by hunger, displacement, disease and the increased risk of gender-based violence.

That’s why the United States is committed to supporting women in conflict zones.

In Yemen, Soumaya, 40, finds respite from the violence at a community center that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) helped establish in Al Hudaydah Governorate in mid-2019.

“I feel comfortable coming to the women’s center,” Soumaya told USAID, using a pseudonym for her protection. The center helps women access humanitarian assistance and legal aid. “I became social and increased my confidence a lot,” she said.

The United States is increasing partnerships with organizations that assist women in regions facing humanitarian crises. On June 7, the U.S. Department of State announced it will provide more than $30.8 million to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2021 to help women and girls, including those who have fled violence or other hardships in conflict zones.

The new assistance builds on the more than $400 million that USAID invested (PDF, 777KB) from October 2017 through September 2020 to empower and protect women and girls in countries affected by crisis, conflict, violent extremism and natural disasters.

U.S. programs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in emergencies helped more than 3.3 million people in 27 countries between October 2019 and October 2020.

Woman holding baby for examination by other woman while two children watch (USAID/Maggie Moore)
USAID partners through the United Nations Population Fund to provide medical services and food for women and children in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, seen here in July 2018. (USAID/Maggie Moore)

The U.S. partnership with UNFPA supports maternal health, family planning and gender-based violence prevention and response. It will also support UNFPA’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the $30.8 million, the U.S. government support for UNFPA efforts includes:

  • Some $2.6 million to respond to the Rohingya refugee crisis.
  • Nearly $1.2 million to increase aid for women who have fled violence and instability in Ethiopia’s Tigray region to seek safety in Sudan.
  • Nearly $1.5 million for protection in Afghanistan, particularly for internally displaced persons and Afghan returnees.
  • Some $1.3 million to strengthen and coordinate the response to gender-based violence against vulnerable people in Sudan.

Support for UNFPA’s aid to the Rohingya is part of nearly $155 million in assistance the U.S. announced in May 2021 to help nearly 900,000 refugees in Bangladesh who fled violence in Burma.

Aid for Afghanistan is part of a broader U.S. commitment of more than $266 million, announced June 4, to help humanitarian partners provide lifesaving protection, shelter, health care, emergency food and other essential assistance to people in Afghanistan and to Afghan refugees.

UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said June 7 that UNFPA’s partnership with the United States “will have an enormous impact on women and girls globally, including those caught in humanitarian crises.”