Women in conflict zones have more than sexual violence to contend with, because just as women don’t stop giving birth in a pandemic, they also don’t stop giving birth when war breaks out. They are just more likely to die when they do. From Invisible Women:
Women are also more likely than men to die from the indirect effects of war. More than half of the world’s maternal deaths occur in conflict-affected and fragile states, and the ten worst-performing countries on maternal mortality are all either conflict or post-conflict countries. Here, maternal mortality is on average 2.5 times higher, and this is partly because post conflict and disaster relief efforts too often forget to account for women’s specific healthcare needs. (IW, pp.296-7)
The UN estimates
that 80,000 women will give birth over the next 3 months, many of them without access to critical maternal health care. Women are already giving birth in unsanitary metro stations
, in bomb shelters, in hospitals under shelling. The shock is sending some women into early labour
. These are the kinds of birthing scenarios where the lives of mothers and babies are at risk – and it’s only going to get worse.
But if previous conflicts are anything to go by, these are the areas that receive the least amount of funding:
For over twenty years, the Inter-agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises has called for women in war zones or disaster areas to be provided with birth kits, contraception, obstetrics care and counselling. But, reports the New York Times, ‘over the past two decades, that help has been delivered sporadically, if at all’. One report found that pregnant women are left without obstetrical care, ‘and may miscarry or deliver under extremely unsanitary conditions.’ (IW, p.297)
So. What can we do? I am going to make two suggestions of places you can donate to help Ukrainian women.
- The Mukwege Foundation, which has been working with Ukrainian survivors of conflict-based sexual violence since 2014. You can donate to their Ukraine appeal here.
- The UN’s Ukraine Appeal has a focus on helping women and girls affected by the war. You can donate here.
You can also write to your political representatives with the information in this newsletter and ask them to make sure the needs of women are not forgotten in this conflict as they have been in so many others before them.
If you do one thing this International Women’s Day, make it this.
Signing off for now, my dear GFPs. Let’s hope that brighter days are coming.
PS: if any Ukrainian GFPs have suggestions for other ways GFPs can help the women of Ukraine, please do hit reply to this email and I’ll share in a future newsletter.