UN Groups Want ‘Specific Steps’ in Respone to Violence Against Women

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) are urging Latin America and the Caribbean countries to take “specific steps” to respond to violence against women. PAHO and the WHO have issued a new manual coinciding with the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women on Saturday.

The document, “Strengthening health systems to respond to women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence: A manual for health managers,” builds on other tools to help health care systems provide “compassionate and effective services” to survivors that address the consequences of violence and help reduce its reoccurrence.

PAHO’s Regional Advisor on Family Violence, Alessandra Guedes, said this is considered urgent because at least one of every three women aged 15 to 49 in Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner.,/

She noted that violence against women is a public health problem, because it is associated with a number of significant health conditions, including anxiety, depression, suicide, unintended pregnancy, STI/HIV infection, unhealthy drinking and others.

“It can also take many forms, including sexual harassment, physical/ emotional/ sexual violence by a partner, sexual violence by strangers and femicide, among others,” she said. “Health systems and health care providers have a key role to play in mitigating the negative health consequences of violence, preventing reoccurrence of violence, and connecting survivors with services provided by other sectors such as justice and social welfare.

“By providing quality and compassionate care to women who have experienced violence, as well as to their children, health care providers can also help prevent the impact of violence on the next generation,” Guedes added. PAHO and WHO recommended five specific steps health providers can take to support women who have experienced violence. “Listen closely, with empathy and no judgment; Inquire about their needs and concerns; Validate their experiences. Show you believe and understand; Enhance their safety; Support them to connect with additional services.”

The organizations have developed several evidence-based tools to strengthen health care providers’ abilities and health systems’ capacity to respond to women who have experienced violence. These include, responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women: WHO clinical and policy guidelines; health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence: a clinical handbook; strengthening health systems to respond to women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence: a manual for health care providers and responding to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused.

Although some progress has been made in preventing violence against women in the Americas, including the Caribbean, there is still “limited recognition of violence as a public health issue that imposes a significant burden for countries,” health ministers from throughout the Americas heard at the Pan American Sanitary Conference in September. PAHO said it has intensified its cooperation with countries to prevent violence against women and children, developing tools, strengthening networks and coalitions, building capacities in the countries, and improving the availability of data.