Charities race to supply emergency contraception to Ukraine as rape ‘used as weapon of war’

International Planned Parenthood Federation has sent about 2,880 packets of morning-after pill

Sravasti Dasgupta
Thursday 28 April 2022 13:54 BST
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Related: Zelensky calls for Nuremberg-style trials after Russian ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine

Amid the growing number of reported incidents of rape in war-torn Ukraine, volunteer organisations are said to be rushing to send contraceptive medicines to the country.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has sent about 2,880 packets of the morning-after pill to the country.

“The timeframe for treating victims of sexual violence is really essential,” Julie Taft of IPPF told The Guardian. “If a woman is seen within five days of an event, then that medication should automatically be given to her.”

In addition, IPPF is also sending medical abortion pills that can be used up to 24 weeks after conception.

Earlier this month, the head of UN Women, Sima Bahous, told the UN security council that “we are increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence” amid Russia’s campaign against Ukraine.

“The brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians has raised all red flags,” she said.

Kateryna Cherepakha, the president of rights group La Strada-Ukraine, told the council that its emergency hotlines had received calls accusing Russian troops of nine cases of rape, involving a dozen women and girls.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she told the council via video. “We know and see – and we want you to hear our voices – that violence and rape is used now as a weapon of war by Russian invaders in Ukraine.”

Jamie Nadal of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also said that in a crisis situation, reported cases of violence, including rape, are likely “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Emergency contraception and its availability has been hit in Ukraine by the war, which has severed ordinary supply chains, forced local shops to be shut down or destroyed and displaced healthcare workers.

Manufacturing has also been hit by the invasion, which began more than two months ago.

“Many pharmaceuticals were previously produced in Ukraine but much of that manufacturing has stopped or became stuck in major cities because transportation is not safe,” said Ms Taft.

“Additionally, the current capacity of health providers and commodities [is insecure], particularly because we’re seeing a lot of destruction of health facilities.”

She added that procurement of medication from other countries, including Romania, Hungary and Poland had become challenging.

“In those countries, you can’t buy emergency medication in bulk,” she said. “So we had to procure them from providers in Denmark and the Netherlands.”

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

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