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Supporting survivors in Ukraine: Gender based violence in war adn displacement


© RedR Australia

As a standby partner to the United Nations, RedR Australia has been drawing on our roster of expert technicians to respond to the complex and varied humanitarian missions spanning countries and communities. One that has dominated the sector recently is the Ukraine war. Just over one year ago the world saw Russia invade Ukraine, starting a war that has left more than 8 million Ukrainians displaced from their homes.


Through RedR Australia’s partnership with the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), roster member Melanie deployed to the World Health Organisation, Poland for the Ukraine response, as a Gender Based Violence (GBV) Advisor. For six months, Melanie remained in country, working alongside other agencies and clusters to support and enable health workers in shelters continue to best support GBV survivors.


Melanie noted that the work undertaken by her and her colleagues faced multiple challenges, including local laws and politics that can impact access to sexual and reproductive health care for women as well as health practitioners performing the work.


“Lifesaving services for GBV survivors are available in Poland, however the health related services are not easily accessible to survivors which can increase the risk of harmful processes and procedures which may re-traumatize and deter survivors from seeking services”, explains Melanie.


Melanie conducting training on gender-based violence first line response for health workers providing services in shelters across Krakow - 18-19 January 2023. © RedR Australia

"My experience as a gender-based violence specialist with WHO Poland has been overwhelmingly positive. I have been so impressed with the level of support WHO has provided, both to me as an individual, but also the critical need to address the health response to survivors of gender-based violence. The organizations' willingness to take the lead on supporting lifesaving services for GBV as a fundamental health issue, and openness to pursuing innovative approaches for the Ukraine response has allowed us to make significant progress in a challenging environment. I am grateful to have worked with global experts to introduce the clinical guidelines and tools developed by WHO on GBV to the Polish context which will have a lasting impact on access to health for survivors for many years to come."


Creating a survivor centred approach to policy, practice and training in refugee and migrant settings is a growing field. Melanie has been a great agent for change in her role at WHO having organised, coordinated, designed and delivered workshops and training for health care professionals and health sector partners on PSEA (Prevention Sexual Exploitation & Abuse) and GBV. The increased demand for gender training and policy development is a positive step for women in challenging environments globally. RedR Australia has noticed the increased demand for Gender Advisors in crisis settings and are thrilled to engage technical experts like Melanie, who make a life changing difference to the people of Ukraine.


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