Mitigating the effects of climate change could prevent Gender Based Violence among young girls.

-The scarcity of water could be a potential risk that will expose girls and women to gender-based violence, the UNICEF Country Representative said.

John Cassim

UNAIDS senior advisor – Natalie Kruse-Levy, UNICEF Country Representative – Dr Tajudeen Oyewale hand over children material to Zimbabwe’s Deputy Health Minister Sleiman Timios Kwidini at UNICEF offices in Harare, on Wednesday.

Harare, Zimbabwe – UNICEF and USAID officials, have called on the need to strengthen prevention measures against gender-based violence (GBV) on girls in Zimbabwe while noting that climate change is one of the leading drivers of the scourge.

The call was made Wednesday morning in Harare during a handover ceremony of child-friendly material, that will help children feel more comfortable in a familiar environment and, thus more receptive to post-violence care and healing process.

“When it comes to climate change, if you use scarcity of water for an example, and it’s not just in Zimbabwe, that, when you have too much distance to access water, it could be a potential risk for girls and women.

So that’s why investment from the government from partners and from ourselves, in enabling access to boreholes closer to home, is also a strategy to prevent GBV, so for us prevention information is increasing access to services, it is also using opportunities like this to address it,” UNICEF Country Representative, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, told ConserveZim.

Poverty which in some instances is caused by drought also subject girls and young women to school dropouts, child marriages, and sexual abuse.

Extreme climate conditions such as heatwaves and cyclones can cause male guardians to abuse young women and girls.

Meanwhile, the USAID senior adviser, Natalie Kruse-Levy said GBV is an unacceptable burden that affects women and girls regardless of age.

“Our focus today is protecting the vulnerable among us: children and young women.

We are all concerned about the high prevalence of sexual violence: 30% of women and girls aged 15-49 years have experienced sexual violence at least in their lifetime, yet only a handful of survivors have sought post-violence care,” Natalie said.

In a bid to make public health facilities accessible for child survivors of violence, UNICEF with funding from UNAIDS, procured child-friendly material including dolls, and reading material. Drawing and coloring books, and tables and chairs for younger children.

The material is expected to help make children feel more comfortable in a familiar environment and, thus more receptive to post-violence care.

UNICEF through the Ministry of Health and Child Care will distribute the materials to eight central and provincial hospitals by March this year.

This is a response to complaints in the past that many GBV victims face several challenges when accessing assistance at health facilities.

The challenges include difficulty in reaching services, stigma associated with sexual violence, and gender and social norms that prevent women and girls from seeking and getting help.

“Today we hand over the materials to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, they are a small yet tangible demonstration of the United States’ commitment to Zimbabwe, but let us be clear that these materials are not a solution.

They are just one piece of a much larger puzzle as real change requires a focus on prevention,” Natalie hinted.

Zimbabwe and a few other countries in the region are currently experiencing an El Nino phenomenon that is associated with normal to below-normal rainfall.

The erratic rainfall pattern and persistent dry spells have seen many small-scale farmers who have no access to irrigation facilities, already counting their losses in the fields.

Nearly 3. 8 million people were vulnerable and needed help during the lean season last year, compared to five million the previous year.

According to the WFP Country Director, Francesca Erdelmann during a food from UNAIDS in January this year, her organization is now focusing on feeding 2. 7 million Zimbabweans owing to the Zimbabwe Vulnerable Assessment Committee report that warns of 2. 7 million people who will not have enough cereal to eat during this first quarter of 2024.

“This year’s lean season coincides with the El Nino weather phenomenon, where Zimbabwe is facing erratic rainfall and high temperatures, meaning we could see low production and further increase food insecurity.

The US assistance today will cover close to 230 000 of the 265 000 targeted by WFP people over the coming months,” Francesca said.

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