Millions remain at risk as funding to stop violence against women fails to match need

Funding to stop gender-based violence is set to drop in some countries and fall far short of what is needed in many others this year, according to new analysis, despite global recognition of the issue as a “shadow pandemic”

According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), “old patterns” are being repeated, as awareness of the increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV) during the Covid-19 crisis has not translated into funding. 

The organisation said that funding available to help tackle the problem was unlikely to grow proportionally alongside the increased need, or in line with other Covid-19 funding rises. 

Its  analysis, released on International Women’s Day, is based on the funding requests to the international community in publicly available humanitarian response plans produced by 10 countries for 2021 so far. The countries include Myanmar, the Central African Republic, Iraq and Ukraine. 

On average, IRC found that overall humanitarian funding requests in conflict and crisis-affected countries increased by more than 19 per cent, yet GBV specific-funding requests increased by only 0.9 per cent. In three countries – Somalia, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo – requests for GBV-specific funding actually fell.  

Nicole Behnam, senior director for violence, prevention and response at the IRC, said: “While Covid-19 has brought increased rhetoric around the different ways women and girls experience a crisis, old patterns are still being repeated.

“Not only is GBV not adequately accounted for, but in some instances, we are seeing already limited resources being diverted to other areas, all in the name of Covid-19.” 

It is thought that cases of domestic violence may have increased by 20 per cent globally during the pandemic and associated lockdowns, and more in many settings, with women effectively trapped with their abusers. But governments have prioritised other issues both in their domestic responses and international funding requests, IRC said. 

“We are especially concerned that, as humanitarian need increases overall, more women and girls at risk of GBV are being left behind as GBV still isn’t a priority in practice,” said Ms Behnam.  

The IRC analysis estimated that the average funding request made by the various countries studied is only three per cent of the total needed, and represents just $11 (£8) per person in need of support. 

The actual amount that ends up reaching the services and people in need will likely be far smaller than this, the IRC said. For example, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for Covid-19 has only reached 40 per cent of its $9.5bn (£6.9bn) funding target, or $3.8bn (£2.8bn). 

IRC estimates that 15 million people, mainly women, will be left out of necessary services across the 10 countries. Many millions more are also at risk, because the problem continues to go under the radar, said Ms Behnam. 

“There are millions more women we don’t know about. This is an epidemic… we know that this is at a proportion that, if it were any other adversity, it would get a lot more attention,” she said.  

The IRC called for more of a focus on women in emergency response planning. It has adapted its work during the pandemic in order to continue to reach as many people at risk as possible, including via remote services delivered by phone, for example. 

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