Refugee women who have been displaced by conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies need to have the same access to crucial sexual and reproductive healthcare resources, but that is not always the case. A new initiative is hoping to change that.
On May 30, the United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) announced a new partnership that will boost family planning services investment in 13 countries focused on vulnerable groups, particularly in areas that have been affected by conflict and natural disasters. The announcement was made at Women Deliver in Kuala Lumpur.
According to IPPF’s website, the initiative will focus on contributing to “fill the gap in health care infrastructure, boosting the quality of the health workforce and developing efficient family planning distribution systems, as well as, ensuring affordable family planning supplies.”
“Family planning has been at the heart of UNFPA’s work for more than 40 years, and partnerships like this one are key to ensuring that hard-to-reach and under-served populations, particularly women, girls and young people, get access to the reproductive health they need,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “We welcome this initiative and value our longstanding partnership with IPPF, considering its support for family planning and its substantial service delivery capacity.”
Women and girls should have access to these vital healthcare resources regardless of the circumstances they are in, said Lakshmi Puri, acting head of United Nations Women. She was speaking in conjunction with the Women Deliver conference. The theme of family planning was one of three key focuses of the conference.
Conference speakers stressed how vitally important it is to ensure than the more than 200 million girls and women in developing countries have access to affordable, reliable services. There has been less attention paid to reaching those women and girls who are in harder to reach settings such as refugee camps or other displaced groups.
United Nations figures put the number of people registered globally as refugees at more than 15 million. The number of people internally displaced by human rights abuses, war or conflict reached a record 28.8 million last year, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
UNFPA has long advocated for refugee access to family planning services. The agency’s stance is that family planning helps save the lives of women and children by preventing untimely or unwanted pregnancies and reducing women’s exposure to health risks associated with abortions and childbirth. Additionally, the agency said, family planning can give women more time to care for their children and themselves, particularly as many women are the sole caregivers for their families. In the agency’s field manual for reproductive health in refugee situations it advocates for relief organizations to respond quickly to refugee demands for contraceptives as early as possible during a relief operation.
According to recent studies by the UN refugee agency, the Women’s Refugee Commission and other organizations, the use of contraceptives in camps is often lower than the surrounding regions. The 2011 study found contraceptive use rates in camps in Djibouti, Kenya, Malaysia, Jordan and Uganda were lower than those in the surrounding geographic regions.
– Liza Casabona
Source: IPPF, The Guardian,UNFPA