JUBA, March 10 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Friday called for increased efforts to safeguard the health and protection of women and girls amid famine in South Sudan.
The UN agency said both women and girls should have access to life-saving food, health facilities, violence prevention and response services, saying famine is especially tough for women.
"In a country that struggles with one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates, severe hunger due to famine could increase risks during pregnancy and childbirth," said UNFPA Country Representative Esperance Fundira in a statement issued in Juba.
The famine in South Sudan, borne out of years of war, political instability and drought, now affects more than 100,000 people.
UNFPA said it's increasingly concerned about the health and well-being of people affected by this crisis, and especially pregnant women as their food supplies are cut short.
According to United Nations estimates, in addition to the 100,000 people who already face famine in South Sudan, 1 million more people are on the brink of extreme hunger, including some 33,000 pregnant women. Up to 253,000 women of childbearing age could be harmed by the crisis this year.
"With increases in premature or low-birth-weight babies and severe postpartum bleeding, the process of giving life becomes even more likely to result in death," Fundira said.
UNFPA also expressed concern that the famine could worsen already existing conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.
"In the South Sudanese conflict, women and girls are raped, forced into marriage and prostitution to survive. Single women, female-headed households, adolescent girls, elderly women, women with disabilities and children are at particular risk," Fundira said.
UNFPA plans to raise 2 million U.S. dollars for the health and protection needs of women and girls.
The Fund also requires some 19 million U.S. dollars to support reproductive health and gender based violence interventions under the 2017 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan.