FILE - a South Sudanese refugee and 32-year-old mother, who was raped for several days by a group of soldiers before she was allowed to leave, stands by a window at a women's center.
The European Union is assuming the leadership of a global initiative to prevent gender-based violence during humanitarian crises.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. The United Nations and many human rights organizations have documented tens of thousands of cases of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina and other places of conflict.
Violence during times of war and natural disasters also affects men and boys. So, the European Union’s Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence is inclusive of both sexes and all ages.
The EU says its mission is to strengthen awareness and encourage the humanitarian community to take stronger action to protect women, men, girls and boys in crisis zones.
Monique Pariat, director-general for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, says more must be done to prevent gender-based violence from occurring in humanitarian emergencies. She says many simple measures can be taken to mitigate violence.
“For instance, to have separate and properly illuminated toilets and washing facilities in camps. Safe access to water and food distribution points. Safe access to hospitals. That can have a very significant impact in preventing and reducing gender-based violence. We can do more also on the education to armed groups, to armies. There are a lot of activities we can promote that will reduce the risk and occurrence of these atrocities.”
Pariat says it is crucial to bring the Call to Action program to the field, adding it is there that these life-saving measures can have the biggest impact. Pariat also says preventive actions must be taken at the earliest onset of an emergency where victims and survivors are at greatest risk.
(c) 2017 VOA News