Numbers are the universal language, understood by billions.
Unlike words, numbers have a constant value. The number eleven is exactly that wherever you go. I look at sheets and graphs, and I can tell you the story without any biases; it is objective.
This week, we celebrate World Statistic Day, and I encourage you to try to read our human stories from a statistical point of view. I encourage all readers to invest in their mathematical and statistical capacities to read our collective story, if we are truly serious about making a sustainable change. It is scientific, results based, and evidence-based thinking.
The planet is facing one of the hardest health emergencies caused by COVID-19 pandemic. This is reflected in numbers, and the numbers tell us many stories. When I read that 700 thousand women will lose their jobs out of the 1.7 million jobs expected to vanish in our region, I can tell you that COVID-19 is hitting women and girls harder at all fronts.
Statistics tell us a story and narrative about our realities; it also directs our attention to the issues to be tackled; for example in Iraq, 65% of service provision points surveyed reported an increase in one or more types of gender-based violence.
Of those reporting an increase, 94% reported an increase in intimate partner and family member violence within their own household. This increase should be a red flag for anyone who works in the human rights sector.
The increase is a result of reaction to the current crisis, and we are addressing it. In response, we have been increasing our efforts to provide support through Women and Girls Safe Spaces and introducing hotlines to provide needed assistance. It is one of the lessons we are learning from this unprecedented experience, and we are documenting many of them.
Data is a public good. Making it available and accessible is a human right. Moreover, it is an instrumental tool to ensure good governance, policy formulation, development planning, risk reduction, crisis response, social welfare programmes and business market analyses.
Inform evidence-based policies and planning. Sharing and analyzing data is a pressing need in our region, which is home for conflicts, natural disasters and public health emergencies.
Statistics tell us that the region is home to 55.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including 26 million forcibly displaced.
An estimated 26 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 owing to a lack of adequate WASH services.
Statistics tell us that poor infrastructure also contributes to the challenges our countries are facing. Developing countries are less equipped to use information and communications technology (ICT) as a tool to minimize disruption caused by the COVID-19.
Only 57% of households in the Arab region have internet at home making it difficult to continue working from home for income generation. In the Arab region, nearly half of the female population are not connected to the internet nor have access to a mobile phone.
That is why UNFPA calls on statisticians, governments and those leading technological innovation to make sure that the data we generate is accurate and reflects the human stories behind each number.
With better Statistics, we will have a better understanding of the challenges people are facing and how much progress we are making in improving their lives and protecting their rights.
COVID-19 has shown us that having robust data collection systems in place is critical for emergency preparedness. Data needs to be disaggregated by sex, age, geographic location, disability, migration status and other characteristics to be meaningful and ensure no one is left behind.
*The writer is the Regional Director for Arab States in UNFPA, the UN agency for sexual and reproductive health