CARE International expresses alarm over lack of funding for GBV in COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan

Photo: Hasina Begum lives in Palangkhali Refugee Camp, Cox’s Bazar. She is part of a social program for women offered by the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) sector, managed by CARE Bangladesh.

Geneva, 16 July 2020 - Today’s update of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP), which aims to deliver a comprehensive and coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, does not go far enough to ensure that Gender-based Violence (GBV) is a response priority, says humanitarian organisation CARE International. 

A severe lack of funding and insufficient prioritisation by the UN continues to hamper humanitarian response efforts to address the alarming increase in violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the UN Secretary-General has categorised as a shadow pandemic. Though 1 in 3 women experienced violence even before COVID-19’s spread, projections suggest that for every three months that lockdown measures continue, an additional 15 million GBV cases could be expected globally. However, gender-based violence has not been prioritised in the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, which includes only USD$50 million to deliver GBV programs for women and girls in only 16 of 63 countries that are spiraling into a humanitarian emergency due to COVID-19. 

As Assiya Grema, a CARE GBV counsellor in Ngala Camp, Nigeria notes: 

“Due to COVID-19 the beating has increased because people are just locked in. Before I would counsel five people a day, now it’s 9-10...There’s an increase in early marriage because of the economic crisis. Some of these girls, as they approach adolescence, they are seen as a burden, and sometimes a girl sees her peers getting married...She can be sold off for as little as half a bag of sorghum.” 

Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro, CARE International Secretary General: 

“We were pleased to note increased attention to Gender-based Violence (GBV) in the revised GHRP document. However, we are very disappointed that there is still no specific objective on GBV, which is critical if we are to unlock a proportionate level of funding and resources. This is despite a 700 percent increase in women and girls reporting to GBV hotlines in some countries, and nearly 600 actors from the GBV global community, including some of the major international donors, calling for a standalone objective on GBV. If we put our heads in the sand, we should expect massive gaps in the GBV response to persist and possibly widen. Worse still, if we don’t properly track how the funds are being spent, we will remain largely in the dark about the extent to which needs on the ground are being met.”   

Delphine Pinault, CARE International Humanitarian Policy, Advocacy Coordinator & UN Geneva Representative: 

“This is an extremely disappointing result in the global fight against GBV. The COVID-19 GHRP was a chance to show that we were serious about not failing women and girls. We have missed that opportunity in this last update of the GHRP - only 1 in 4 countries covered in the appeal have prioritised GBV in their response.  

Donors and countries are looking to the GHRP to understand what to prioritize and where to put their limited COVID-19 funding; the previous GHRP did not have GBV as a response priority and GBV programs were severely underfunded. What makes us think it will be any different this time?” 

This update comes on the heels of over 580 NGOs, international organisations and governments calling on OCHA to update the GHRP to reflect the need to address the shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls through a Specific Objective. Humanitarian actors recognize the magnitude of the problem and continue to advocate for GBV response prioritization within the GHRP, including the following recommendations:    

  • Immediate and substantial increase in donor and UN funding available to address GBV prevention and response; 
  • Prioritization of GBV in COVID-19 within national and regional response plans for 2021; 
  • Full integration of GBV risk mitigation needs within response implemented by other sectors; 
  • GBV service providers recognition as essential workers; 
  • Mainstreamed GBV messaging at key entry points such as hospitals and drugstores, especially during lockdown situations.