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UNITED NATIONS, New York, 8 August 2016 – As fighting in South Sudan continues, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is concerned about the reported increase in sexual violence in that country and calls for stronger support for women and girls to protect their safety, health and rights.

Women and girls face increased risk of sexual violence during conflicts, including being attacked while they seek firewood and food, and also, they resort to desperate measures, such as survival sex, to feed themselves and their families.

UNFPA is working with its partners to scale up efforts to meet the immediate needs of survivors, including post-rape care, and to reduce the risk of sexual violence. Support for this work is being provided by the Governments of Denmark, Japan and the United States.

UNFPA estimates that 300,000 people in Juba require life-saving services within the next three months for sexual and reproductive health, including safe birth, and to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

Urgent action is needed to protect the health of mothers and newborns, given that 3,000 births are expected in Juba in the next three months. In addition, about 600 pregnant women are likely to face pregnancy complications that need comprehensive emergency obstetric care and quality health services to save their lives.

Even before the recent fighting, the situation was dire in South Sudan, which has one of the highest maternal and infant death rates in the world. Due to lack of required infrastructure and capacity, only 11 per cent of births are attended by skilled workers.

UNFPA is working with partners, and with generous support from Canada and Sweden, to provide life-saving midwifery services throughout the country.

Another UNFPA priority is the delivery of much-needed reproductive health supplies and equipment. The Fund is providing a steady supply of emergency reproductive health kits to protect the right to sexual and reproductive health services across the country. More than 50 service providers have been trained to manage rape and provide psychological first aid to survivors in some 15 facilities nationwide. UNFPA plans to expand this life-saving service to 24 health facilities over the next year. The Fund and its partners are also scaling up community mobilization to encourage sexual violence survivors to seek timely support.

Out of UNFPA’s 2016 humanitarian appeal of $13.3 million to serve 3.9 million people in South Sudan, only $3.9 million has been received. A minimum of $996,000 is urgently needed for Juba in the next three months to fund reproductive health supplies, ambulance support, dignity kits with hygiene and safety items, tents for women’s safe spaces, and training for medical volunteers.