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A high level mission led by Karin Poulsen, Danish Ambassador to Ethiopia, Djibouti, South Sudan and Sudan, permanent representative to the African Union, IGAD and UNECA, was assured by the President of the Somali Region of his full support for a UNFPA supported project funded by Denmark. The project focuses at building resilience integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights services with humanitarian food distribution in selected districts in the Somali Region.  The high level mission was conducted between 16 and 17 May.

In his discussion with the high level mission, the State President, His Excellency Mustafa Mohammed Omar, noted that the project complements and contributes towards his and his cabinet’s vision which has a strong focus on empowerment of women and ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights. "Women empowerment is one of the strategies for development in the region as is health, where sexual and reproductive health and rights is a critical component," he said. The President added the importance of protection on GBV, including a comprehensive care for survivors of sexual harassment as the magnitude of the problem is usually undermined and survivors suffer due to lack of care and stigma.

Speaking on the occasion the Danish Ambassador noted “Our engagement with UNFPA & WFP is an innovative pilot programme that seeks to overcome the key challenge that the needs of women and girls are often under prioritised in humanitarian situations.” She went on to say “by linking the work of UNFPA and WFP in the Somali region, we seek to use the convening power that it is mainly women who comes to the WFP distribution sites by linking these sites to UNFPA activities seeking to improve sexual and reproductive health services and family planning awareness raising.”

“We need to recognize that reproductive health do not only improve women and children’s lives but is a crucial lifesaving intervention reducing maternal mortality. I was very happy to see the ongoing work and collaboration on the ground and look forward to following how the synergies will unfold as we learn along the way,” the Ambassador remarked.

The Danish funded project has been in implementation by UNFPA since 2018 in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia and Maternity Foundation.

The mission visited the project sites and held discussions with women and communities, service providers and the local government administration in addition the implementing partners. The Ambassador appreciated the holistic approach being applied by the project to reach women while also getting a deeper understanding of the challenges in the region.

Conflict and climate induced factors have made the Somali Region host the second highest number of internally displaced persons in Ethiopia. The multiple cultural and social barriers have been impeding women from accessing information and services on family modern family planning resulting in a contraceptive prevalence rate of 1.5 which is very low compared to the national average according to the Demographic and Health Survey (2016).
The project is working towards breaking the barriers engaging influential community and religious leaders through community dialogue.  

The project is contributing to the goal of achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights focusing on vulnerable women, adolescent girls and youth with the objective to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience.

The food or cash distribution centres of WFP are serving as a platform for reaching the most vulnerable people with information on family planning and sexual and reproductive health, including safe deliveries, to encourage them seek services at nearby health facilities. UNFPA is availing commodities at the health centers and health posts and training service providers with the Minimum Initial Service Package and Basic Emergency Obstetrics and Neonatal Care.