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A UNFPA-commissioned assessment of services for survivors of gender-based violence in Nangahar, Bamiyan and Kabul provinces found that health care facilities are often the only option for survivors seeking assistance and protection outside the family. However, health care facilities are poorly connected, if at all, to referral and reporting networks and so cannot always provide the support survivors need.

Accordingly, in 2013, UNFPA embarked on an innovative project with the Ministry of Public Health to develop the structures needed for an effective response.

Family Protection Centres
Recognizing that survivors are often unable to speak of their ordeal without repercussions, the Ministry of Public Health, UNFPA and partners chose hospitals as sites for Family Protection Centres. These centres offer survivors basic services, including psychological and medical support, help in collecting evidence, information, and referrals. Since they are located inside hospitals, women can access them without drawing negative attention from their menfolk.

The first Family Protection Centres opened in 2013 in Kabul and Nangarhar followed by those in Herat, Balkh, Bamiyan and Baghlan. In the first year after their establishment, these facilities assisted 450 survivors of gender-based violence, most of whom reported physical violence, with others reporting psychological violence, forced or early marriage, denial of resources and rape.

Not least amongst the challenges faced by survivors of gender-based violence is the lack of psychological professionals. Since 2010, UNFPA has supported training for more than 600 health service providers in psychosocial counselling skills and since 2013, counselling has been an intrinsic component of the services offered by Family Protection Centres to attend gender-based violence survivors.