Abuja — The Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) held its 37th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference from 15th -17th June 2021 in Abuja.
The aim of this year's conference was to put a spotlight on the rising levels of violence against women and girls in Nigeria and to profer solutions. In 1996, the World Health Assembly declared violence against women a major public health issue that urgently needed to be addressed by governments and health organizations. Gender-based violence (GBV) causes a host of health problems, puts a strain on health system resources, limits women's growth and productivity, impedes the well-being of families and communities, and hinders governments from achieving national goals related to health and women's advancement.
The impact of gender-based violence on women's health, in particular, is well documented - it is a major cause of disability and death among women worldwide, and has adverse consequences for women's sexual and reproductive health. Violence during pregnancy can cause serious harm to both the mother and baby. The conference recognizes that health professionals are central to the response to gender-based violence.
As part of the annual conference, the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative hosted a high-level plenary session and launched the Orange the World campaign for doctors in an effort to amplify the call for action to end violence, which has been worsened by COVID-19.
The high-level plenary session, with the theme 'Strengthening Nigeria's Health System to Meet the Needs of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence and Harmful Practices: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic', hosted panellists from government, civil society, and service providers. They addressws how to improve health services for survivors of gender-based violence in Nigeria. The plenary session provided a platform for health professionals, development partners, policymakers and advocates to reflect on gaps in the health system response to gender-based Violence and find opportunities for improvement.
At the end of the event, the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) issued a 6-point call to action signed by its National Chairman, Professor Benjamin S.C Uzochukwu, as follows:
The Association calls on all states yet to adopt the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act and Child Rights Act (CRA) to do so without further delay, to protect our women and girls.
Beyond the adoption of the laws, we need to strengthen law enforcement and awareness of the law around gender-based violence. Everyone should understand that violence against women and girls is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.
We call on all states to put in place a sex offenders register to name and shame perpetrators and end the impunity around gender-based violence
We call on every state government to establish and fund at least one GBV response centre and shelter in its state with government-paid staff deployed and with effective linkages to other support services that survivors may need
We call for the establishment of at least one forensic lab in each geopolitical zone in the country to support the prosecution of GBV
We call on the National Council on Health to declare free medical care for survivors of GBV and assign a focal point for GBV in each health facility in Nigeria to help survivors navigate health facilities in a timely manner.
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