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In the shadow of COVID-19, UNFPA reaches displaced women and girls in Northern Rakhine

BUTHIDAUNG, MYANMAR – As the escalation of armed clashes in long-troubled Rakhine state continues to displace many people from their homes, adding to the complexity of the ongoing COVID-19 scenario in Myanmar, the need to provide crucial, often lifeasving supplies for women and girls becomes more urgent than ever.

With people and families on the run, lives and rights are challenged. Among them, women and girls who are the most vulnerable during humanitarian crises, including conflict and natural disasters. Their dignity and basic needs are often overlooked amid the effort to provide basic relief including food, sanitation and shelter.

With COVID-19 striking Myanmar, as it has the majority of countries globally, efforts to provide hygiene supplies for women and girls, along with sexual and reproductive health services, are critical.

UNFPA, as part of its humanitarian assistance, has distributed more than 3,000 of its trademark Dignity Kits to displaced women and girls from the Buthidaung township of Rakhine State since 2019.

Now, Dignity Kits are being adapted for the COVID-19 response by adding soap, sanitizers and mobile phone cards.

In this way, the kits contribute to restoring the dignity of displaced women and girls through providing items such as menstrual pads, as well as improving infection control in the context of the pandemic, and making it that much easier to avail of phone-based services that help respond to incidents of gender-based violence which often spikes during emergencies.

“Restoring dignity empowers the displaced women and girls," explained Dr Myintzu Aye, UNFPA Programme Analyst who participated in the recent distribution of Dignity Kits at the IDP camps in Northern Rakhine state.

"Having the Dignity Kits makes women and girls feel more confident and safe. Carrying the kits on their way back, they bring not only the basic items they need in the immediate here and now, but also the confidence to take the steps necessary to overcome the challenges they face."

The Dignity Kits provided by UNFPA are funded through Australia and Japan.

UNFPA has long operated in several conflict-ridden areas of Myanmar, seeking to address sexual and reproductive health needs - including safer pregnancy and childbirth - and the provision of contraception, as well as responding to gender-based violence and other harms perpetuated against women and girls.

For more on UNFPA's humanitarian support and COVID-19 response in Myanmar, contact Thein Zaw Win at thewin@unfpa.org

For UNFPA's wider humanitarian efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia and the Pacific, contact Roy Wadia at wadia@unfpa.org