Message from Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA

World Mental Health Day – 10 October 2019


The mental health consequences of crisis and conflict are serious, yet often overlooked.

Those caught in humanitarian emergencies suffer psychological trauma and invisible wounds as devastating and crippling as any physical harm. Survivors can face long-lasting challenges to their health and well-being, and too often, suffer in silence.

As crises around the world become more widespread and displacement reaches record levels, UNFPA is committed to scaling up access to mental health care and psychosocial support for women and girls in humanitarian settings.  

From child and forced marriage to unintended pregnancy to intimate partner violence to rape and trafficking, women and adolescent girls face increased risk to their health and well-being. They need increased support.

We are working closely with humanitarian and development partners to integrate mental health and psychosocial support into our response to gender-based violence (GBV) in emergencies and as part of our lifesaving sexual and reproductive health services. 

This includes specialized care centres and safe spaces where those who have experienced trauma – including displacement, violence and loss – can heal, find hope and begin to live again.

As one survivor of abuse said after six months of treatment at a UNFPA psychological care centre in Yemen: “I feel I have a purpose now.” Today, she volunteers at the centre, sharing her experiences with other survivors.

On World Mental Health Day, UNFPA calls for increased efforts to address the growing psychosocial needs in humanitarian settings and more openness about mental illness.

By stepping up our support and removing the stigma surrounding mental health, we can help lift the burden of trauma off the shoulders of those who have already suffered enough.

Together, let’s put people first and give them what they need for a sustainable future of health and well-being. One person at a time, we can rebuild lives, communities, and entire countries.  


This video depicts the journey of one of the teams of the Somali Health and Demographic Survey (SHDS) enumerators during their field work in Amoud Temporary Settlement, Abdaal village in Sahil region.


The team interviewed the Nomadic population at their Temporary New Settlement (TNS). The TNS is a method adopted to enumerate and capture the socio-economic data or status of the Somali women living in nomadic settings.


As can be observed in the video the terrain in Amoud is rocky and the team battled with uneven surface and harsh windy situation. The enumerators traveled from one household to another which is sometimes between a distance of one and five kilometers.   This means that the team had to abandon the use of their vehicle to walk up in the rocky area to find the households within the TNS. 


“It is difficult to climb up the hills. It is too windy and making it more difficult to climb up. The wind is balancing me off. It is an extremely long walk,” the team is heard exclaiming in the video.


Although it is generally a tiresome walk, some members of the team are more adaptable to the conditions than others.  Some are heard saying that it is difficult to keep up with the pace of the community guide who is assisting them to find the TNS. 


The enumerators will be in the area on 23 and 24 July 2019 before they move to another TNS nearby.  Twelve teams have been working in region.


Banadir Hospital

The Federal Government of Somalia recognizes Banadir Hospital as the only ‘National Referral Hospital’ in the country.

The hospital comprises three main departments:

  • The maternity which offers treatment services to medical to medical and surgical conditions of pregnant and non- pregnant women similarly
  • The pediatric department deals with medical and surgical conditions for all ages of children, controls and acute watery diarrhea
  • The medical and surgical activities are also delivered routinely or as emergency

Making motherhood safer is a top priority for UNFPA. UNFPA works at all levels to promote universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and rights, including by promoting international maternal health standards and providing guidance and support to health systems including Banadir Hospital.

UNFPA-supported programmes emphasize capacity development in maternal care, especially the strengthening of human resources and emergency obstetric and newborn care. Among its many programmes, UNFPA helps to train midwives, supports emergency obstetric and newborn care facilities and networks, and provides essential drugs and family planning services. UNFPA also supports the implementation of maternal death review and response systems, which help officials understand how many women are dying, why, and how to respond. UNFPA additionally seeks to make pregnancy and childbirth as safe as possible in emergency settings.


Our Representative Anders Thomsen wishes all girls and women in Somalia a Happy Women's Day 2019


We asked adolescent girls from Palestine, Jordan, Kurdistan Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria about their dreams and aspirations, and they answered that any girl should be able to aspire to be an architect, a pilot or even the president of her country!

UNFPA believes in the right of girls to be informed about their bodies and empowered in their ability to choose what is better for them, and encourages teenage girls to stay in school, pursue professional opportunities and delay pregnancy until they are over 18 years of age.

It is our responsibility to give proper information to adolescent girls, so they can grow into a safe and healthy womanhood.


Adolescence is the period between childhood and adulthood, marked by rapid physical growth. It is important for the adolescents to be equipped with the necessary life skills needed to navigate through life. Information on the adolescent population and where they reside is critical in social (e.g. education and health) and economic planning.

The findings of the 2014 Population Estimation Survey for Somalia (PESS) show that a majority of the population is below 35 years. The adolescent boy and girl have different roles in the community. These different roles promote or inhibit their access to social amenities such as education and health. In many instances the boy child enjoys more advantages over the girl child. Infrastructural development is not uniform in the entire country. In many developing countries, urban areas are more developed and have better access to social and economic facilities.


UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund on 10th April, 2017 handed over an ambulance, donated by the People of Japan, to the Ministry of Health in Somaliland as part of collaborative efforts to support programmes aimed at reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and related morbidity among Somali women and newborns. The Government of Japan supports health-strengthening systems for Somali people through UNFPA.

UNFPA also handed over the Central Medical Warehouse to the Ministry of Health for improved storage of reproductive health commodities including reproductive health kits.

The graduation at Haji Abdi Midwifery School comes after another group of 20 midwives graduated from Bosaso University of Health Sciences on 20 February 2017 bringing the total number of graduates from UNFPA-supported midwifery training programme in Puntland to 40 in this year alone. - See more at: https://somalia.unfpa.org/news/more-midwives-graduate-puntland#sthash.Rq...

The graduation at Haji Abdi Midwifery School comes after another group of 20 midwives graduated from Bosaso University of Health Sciences on 20 February 2017 bringing the total number of graduates from UNFPA-supported midwifery training programme in Puntland to 40 in this year alone.

The graduation at Haji Abdi Midwifery School comes after another group of 20 midwives graduated from Bosaso University of Health Sciences on 20 February 2017 bringing the total number of graduates from UNFPA-supported midwifery training programme in Puntland to 40 in this year alone.


UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM. The programme currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives.

In Somalia, UNFPA and UNICEF are working on accelerating the abandonment of FGM under the joint programme.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a practice that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, and it is internationally recognized as a human rights violation. Globally, it is estimated that 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM. Although FGM in declining in the majority of countries where it is prevalent, most of these are also experiencing a high rate of population growth – meaning that the number of girls who undergo FGM will continue to grow if efforts are not significantly scaled up.

To promote the abandonment of FGM, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, and they must engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality. They must also address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.



Today, on #UNDay, we would like to show you our work from a different perspective, from the UN #Somalia perspective.

The United Nations is the largest aid organization working inside Somalia today with about 1800 staff on the ground saving lives, promoting peace, helping long-term development, ensuring human rights, and much more. Carrying out this broad range of work in a unique environment such as Somalia comes at significant costs, not just financial but also for example human costs.

Despite the major challenges, we are here to stay and continue to work with and for Somalis to ensure a brighter and more sustainable future.

Happy #UNDay2016!