November 25, 2013

Family and sexual violence are humanitarian emergencies with serious consequences for survivors. Their effects go far beyond borders and affect public health at a national level.Survivors need access to free, quality, confidential, integrated medical care, as well as high quality social protection and law and justice services. These issues were discussed in Papua New Guinea (PNG), during a conference co-hosted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25.
Rates of family and sexual violence in PNG are among the world’s highest. A recent study by UN Partners for Prevention found that one in five women’s first experience of sex was rape, and that one third of men had been sexually abused as children.Child survivors of family and sexual violence are even more vulnerable and have greater needs, yet they have particular difficulty accessing services.Paul Brockmann, head of mission for MSF in PNG, said that rapid medical care can prevent life-threatening health consequences. But survivors also need a comprehensive response, he said, including access to high quality social protection and law and justice services.“Access to integrated medical care is critical and it needs to be scaled up: for example with one functioning Family Support Centre in each province,” he said.“The barriers that exist to service provision must be overcome. The provincial action plans we have developed at this conference provide a practical road map to doing this.”A critical outcome, which will improve service provision, was the commitment from the National Department of Health to establish Family Support Centres in all hospitals across the country.In PNG, MSF began treating survivors of family and sexual violence in 2007. MSF has provided more than 18,000 survivors with emergency medical and psychosocial care in Lae, Tari and Port Moresby.MSF and partner organizations have also trained clinical staff from 28 hospitals across PNG on how to establish and run much-needed emergency medical services for survivors.The conference – co-hosted by MSF together with the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee and the PNG National Department of Health – brought together medical, legal and social institutions to develop action plans to improve services for survivors.Ume Wainetti, National Coordinator at the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee and chair of the conference, said the conference was groundbreaking in its collaborative approach.“The action plans that we have developed today are a real step forward and an unprecedented recognition of the urgency of responding to this crisis.”The conference was attended by service providers from 11 provinces together with international and national leaders, including the Secretary for Justice and Attorney General Dr. Lawrence Kalinoe, European Union Ambassador Martin Dihm and Australian High Commissioner Deborah Stokes.

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