World Health Organization
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The World Health Organization (WHO) is the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations System. It supports the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health is defined in WHO's Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. WHO supports countries as they coordinate the efforts of multiple sectors of the government and partners to attain their health objectives and support their national health policies and strategies. WHO’s work on violence against women spans more than twenty years and includes: a) Building the evidence base on the size and nature of violence against women in different countries and developing methodologies and ethical and safety guidelines for measuring violence and its consequences; b) Establishing norms and standards for the health systems’ response to violence against women, particularly for intimate partner violence, sexual violence and female genital mutilation, including development of guidelines and tools (e.g. clinical handbook, training curricula, capacity assessment tools, strengthening health system job aids); c) Supporting countries (Ministries of Health and other relevant partners) to implement such tools, including in humanitarian settings and through participation in the Joint UN Programme on essential services for women subject to violence; d) Building evidence through research and data collection and development of prevalence estimates and global monitoring for different forms of VAW; e) Advocacy for strengthening the role of the health sector in multisectoral response to address VAW and for the integration of strategies to address VAW in existing health programmes such as those for sexual and reproductive and maternal and child health, HIV prevention, mental health, adolescent health and others.
See main instruments above. In addition, WHO’s work on violence against women is based on several resolutions by its governing bodies: World Health Assembly Resolution WHA49.25, Prevention of violence: a public health priority (1996); World Health Assembly Resolution WHA50.19, Prevention of Violence(1997); World Health Assembly Resolution WHA56.24, Implementing the recommendations of the World report on violence and health (2003); African Regional Committee Resolution AFR/RC54/R6, Child sexual abuse: a silent health emergency (2004); and the European Regional Committee Resolution EUR/RC55/10, Prevention of injuries in the WHO European Region. In May 2008 the World Health Assembly, adopted a resolution against FGM, which urges all Member States to, among others, enact and enforce legislation, support and enhance community-based efforts, and develop and promote guidelines for care of victims. More recently, the2014 World Health Assembly resolution WHA67.15 on “Strengthening the role of the health system in addressing violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children” ; Strategy and Plan of Action on Strengthening the Health System to Address Violence against Women, PAHO (2015); and World Health Assembly resolution WHA 69.5 WHO global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children (2016).
Areas of Focus
WHO supports and undertakes research, develops guidelines and tools, strengthens the capacity of national health systems to develop policy and strengthen their response and services for survivors of violence against women and engages in advocacy and partnerships to address violence against women. Its efforts on violence against women include intimate partner violence, sexual violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), child and adolescent sexual abuse, child abuse and maltreatment, and violence against health workers. WHO also collaborates with IOM on the health of migrants and people who have been trafficked, including responding to violence. This work is being undertaken across a number of areas of work in WHO and by the different levels in WHO: at Headquarters, regional and country level. WHO participates in many UN inter-agency activities, processes, and partnerships, including UN Action (on sexual violence in conflict), the the Inter-agency Standing Committee, the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on reproductive health in humanitarian settings, the response to gender based violence in humanitarian settings through the health cluster, and UNAIDS Outcome Framework. It participates in the UN Joint Programme on Essential services for women subject to violence and a Joint Programme on strengthening methodologies and measurement and building national capacities for VAW data.
Gender based violence quality assurance tool (standards for the provision of high quality post-violence care in health facilities (2018)
Responding to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused: WHO clinical guidelines (2017)
Strengthening health systems to respond to women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence: A manual for health managers (2017) Global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children (2016)
Ethical and safety recommendations for intervention research on violence against women. Building on lessons from the WHO publication: Putting women first: ethical and safety recommendations for research on domestic violence against women (2016)
Strengthening the medico-legal response to sexual violence (2015) (with UNODC)
Health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence: a clinical handbook – field testing version (2014) (with UNW and UNFPA)
Responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women: WHO clinical and policy guidelines (2013)
Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence (2013)
16 Ideas for addressing violence against women in the context of the HIV epidemic: A programming tool (2013)
Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence: taking action and generating evidence, 2010
WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women – Report – initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses (2005)
WHO is implementing work to strengthen the institutionalisation of gender-based violence responses in WHO’s humanitarian work, ensuring the integration of violence against women (sexual violence and intimate partner violence) in the work of the health cluster at global and regional levels, and in selected countries.
WHO developed and published Responding to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused: WHO clinical guidelines for health care providers to provide a comprehensive clinical response to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused 2. WHO has collaborated with JHPIEGO, PEPFAR, and CDC to develop and publish Gender based violence quality assurance tool - standards for the provision of high quality post-violence care in health facilities
Development of a popular version of the commitments in the WHA approved WHO global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children (2016) and report back on progress to the World Health Assembly 2018.
WHO developed and published Strengthening health systems to respond to women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexualviolence: A manual for health managers.View More
WHO developed and published Strengthening health systems to respond to women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual
violence: A manual for health managers. As a complementary volume to the clinical handbook for health-care providers, WHO has produced this manual for health managers to design, plan, manage and implement health services to respond to intimate partner violence or sexual violence.
1. WHO together with UNFPA and UN Women published a clinical handbook for health providers titled "Health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence". Adaptation workshops and trainings based on the handbook have been held in multiple settings in 2017, including: Pakistan, Botswana, Namibia, Uruguay, and Zambia and in regional settings (e.g. Caribbean and East and southern Africa). 2. Technical support is being provided to countries and in-country partners who want to conduct national prevalence surveys on violence against women using the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence methodology. 3. WHO is finalising the development of curricula for use in in-service and pre-service training to strengthen the knowledge, skills and attitudes of health-care professionals and ensure they can respond effectively to women suffering abuse and its consequences.
Based on the UN framework for the prevention of violence against women, WHO, with UN Women, developed and is finalising an 8-page policy-maker friendly, infographic brochure to package the evidence about risk and protective factors , what works for prevention categorised into 7 prevention strategies., and how to scale up proven interventions This brochure packages simple key messages about the evidence on prevention in a user friendly way.
1. Intervention to address VAW in antenatal care setting : WHO and the Wits Institute for Reproductive health have finalised a randomised control trial of an empowerment counselling-based intervention in antenatal care for pregnant women experiencing abuse in Johannesburg, South Africa. The trial found that the intervention was efficacious in reducing IPV, and was acceptable but delivering it would require further efforts.. The findings and intervention training manual will be published in 2018 2. Building on field testing of the WHO clinical handbook for the response to intimate partner violence and sexual violence, WHO is carrying out implementation research to identify effective approaches to roll out WHO clinical guidelines and derivative tools on the health sector response to violence against women. 3. The questionnaire developed for the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women has been updated and now includes questions on non-partner sexual violence, sexual harassment and updated questions on social norms and mental health. The questionnaire will be published in 2018 along with an accompanying question-by-question manual. 4. WHO updated its database on intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence and established a technical advisory group for the VAW inter-agency working group on estimation and data as part of the UN-wide SDG monitoring efforts
We have increased the capacity of our regional and country focal points through regional capacity building workshops on essential services (with UNW and UNFPA)or of the health sector response. We have also strengthened our capacity to respond to VAW in humanitarian settings.
In Somalia, UNODC is implementing a project funded by UN ACTION to pilot the UNODC/WHO tool on strengthening the medico-legal response to sexual violence. Police officers were trained on criminal justice response to gender-based violence in conflict.
WHO is one of the 13 UN entities of UN Action, leading knowledge pillar by contributing to improved evidence for understanding the scale of sexual violence in conflict and how to respond effectively. In 2015, WHO together with UNODC published a toolkit on 'strengthening the medico-legal response to sexual violence', which aims to support service provision and coordination in low-resource settings, available in English and French. It is being field tested in several countries with the aim of improving coordination across the multiple stakeholders involved.