In the News: Blocking aid and destruction of health facilities hamper response to sexual violence in Tigray: HRW

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HRW released an 89-page report: “I Still Remember This Day”: Access to Services for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region
Photo: Al Jazeera

By Addis Standard staff

Addis Ababa, November 10, 2021- Human Rights Watch in a report published yesterday documented the health impacts of conflict-related sexual violence in Tigray citing aid agencies and other service providers. The report explained in detail the effect of the devastation of the health system and the lack of availability of post-rape health care and related psychosocial support services among many other factors hampered access to care for the victims. of sexual violence, including girls and women ages 6 to 80.

HRW also listed insecurity, the presence of armed men in health facilities and the Ethiopian government’s restrictions on communications, electricity and humanitarian aid among the reasons that have hampered the rehabilitation of the health sector. health and accelerating a comprehensive response to gender-based violence. . The report covers the period from June to November 2021, and contains interviews with survivors of sexual violence, local and international health workers, service providers, aid workers, members of community organizations and agencies. government donors in addition to previous human rights. Watch interviews from January to June 2021 with two Eritrean refugees survivors of sexual violence and five health workers, service providers and witnesses.

“Priority should be given to developing safe spaces and confidential services where survivors can seek help voluntarily and when they choose. ”

Human Rights Watch

Highlighting the lack of reliable estimates of the prevalence of sexual violence in conflict and of comprehensive incident data, HRW said that “priority should be given to developing safe spaces and confidential services where survivors can. ask for help voluntarily and at a time of their choosing. “The report also takes into account insecurity, deep-rooted social stigma and the lack of functioning health facilities when it argues that the actual number of cases of sexual violence far exceeds the reported number. Further, it notes that some groups of survivors of sexual violence, including men, boys, the elderly and people with disabilities, tend to have fewer channels to seek confidential assistance from qualified staff equipped to provide support and respond to their concerns. specific needs.

HRW has established that survivors of sexual violence can seek services such as testing, treatment and termination of pregnancy, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and hepatitis B, and physical trauma, including fractures, bruises, stab wounds and traumatic fistula, in addition to psychological treatment.

Citing the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the HRW report found that severe shortages of medical supplies used in the clinical management of rape threaten the provision of care for sexual survivors. It also showed that only 1% of health facilities in Tigray had the capacity to provide comprehensive gender-based violence services as of April 2021.

The report also takes into account insecurity, deep-rooted social stigma and the lack of functioning health facilities when arguing that the actual number of cases of sexual violence far exceeds the reported number.

Observing the Ethiopian government’s acknowledgment of reports of sexual violence, HRW criticized the response. “Investigations have been slow, and while senior officials, including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Attorney General Gedion Timothewos, have personally acknowledged the occurrence of rape, senior officials have also downplayed the importance of media reports on the rape. rape as sensational, calling them sensational. TPLF propaganda. Taking into account the Ethiopian government’s engagement with the humanitarian community in medical and psychosocial support, initially co-chairing the humanitarian coordination group focused on protection issues, including gender-based violence, HRW said: “However , these efforts pale in comparison to the effects of severe restrictions on access and essential services that the Ethiopian government has repeatedly imposed on the Tigray region since the start of the conflict.

The report recalls the three-month suspension of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland and the Norwegian Refugee Council after being accused of “disinformation” and failure to obtain appropriate work permits as well as the expulsion of staff members of the UN in September. and explained that these actions have seriously hampered the rehabilitation of the health sector.

Humanitarian groups told HRW they were struggling to meet the minimum standards of care to ensure an appropriate and quality humanitarian response, as outlined in the Sphere standards and other international guidelines.

HRW has received statements from health workers and service providers working in Tigray who complained about the lack of adequate medicines and medical supplies preventing them from providing services outside of urban centers for community outreach due to lack of money, transport and fuel. Likewise, humanitarian groups told HRW they were struggling to meet minimum standards of care to ensure an appropriate and quality humanitarian response, as outlined in Sphere standards and other international guidelines.

While acknowledging that warring parties may take military actions to restrict electricity or communications to opposing forces as long as such actions do not cause disproportionate civilian damage, HRW said, “The Ethiopian government should immediately provide full access and unimpeded humanitarian aid to the Tigray region and restore essential services to meet the urgent health care and psychosocial support needs of victims of sexual violence.

HRW called on international donors to commit support and resources for the long-term rehabilitation of the health system, including for the clinical management of rape in the region. He also called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to urgently establish an independent international investigation that examines the pattern and scale of violations, identifies those responsible for the worst crimes committed to date, and collects and preserves evidence to pave the way for future liability and redress.LIKE

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