Statement from Anissa Toscano, Vice President of Humanitarian Leadership and Response, Mercy Corps
Last week a bipartisan group of leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives took bold action to enhance the U.S. government’s efforts to prevent and address gender-based violence during humanitarian crises by introducing the Safe from the Start Act (H.R. 4092). This legislation was introduced by Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA). Mercy Corps calls on Congress to swiftly pass this vital legislation.
Armed conflict is the primary cause of a 25-year peak in global violence, and it is driving record levels of displacement affecting more than 70 million people around the world. We know that in the midst of humanitarian crises, social structures and government services collapse, leaving displaced people more vulnerable to violence and abuse. That is why it is critically important that every humanitarian response includes proactive strategies to prevent gender-based violence and prioritize the needs of women and girls.
The Safe from the Start Act reflects broad congressional support for humanitarian action to protect the most vulnerable. It would permanently authorize and strengthen the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Safe from the Start Initiative. Since 2013, this initiative has improved the humanitarian community’s response to gender-based violence in emergencies, by providing funding and technical support to strengthen the capacity of international humanitarian and non-governmental organizations around the world. The legislation would also provide needed Congressional oversight, requiring the Secretary of State – in coordination with the Administrator of USAID – to submit a report to Congress detailing the progress made in preventing, mitigating and addressing gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies.