The Sexual and Reproductive Health Program
Access to sexual and reproductive health care is both a right and a critical need, yet in crisis situations—when vulnerabilities are drastically increased—these services are not always available or prioritized. In fact, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care is the leading cause of death, disease and disability among displaced women and girls of reproductive age. Not surprisingly, the majority of countries with high maternal mortality rates are affected by conflict.
It is crucial to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of displaced persons in crisis settings in order to achieve several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a blueprint for meeting the needs of the world’s poorest by 2015. These include: MDG 3 to promote gender equality, MDG 4 to improve child health, MDG 5 to improve maternal health and MDG 6 to reduce HIV transmission.
The Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for humanitarian agencies to:
We work on innovative programming to improve the sexual and reproductive health of all persons affected by crises. Our initiatives encompass disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, community empowerment, new technologies and approaches, child marriage and emergency response. We identify critical gaps in sexual and reproductive health and make recommendations on solutions to better meet the needs of women and girls specifically.
To ensure that lifesaving reproductive health services are in place from the very start of an emergency situation, we advocate among UN agencies, governments, donors and other organizations to ensure they are implementing the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for Reproductive Health in Crisis Situations, a set of priority practices for health care professionals. After a crisis situation stabilizes, we advocate that the full range of sexual and reproductive health services be available.
Like many of her neighbors, Mamie Guankanue gave birth in her village in Liberia, with a traditional midwife. But the delivery was difficult and unexpected as Mamie had gone into premature labor. She gave birth, and after the delivery, the placenta was retained—a dangerous condition that can cause hemorrhaging and infection. A full two days later, Mamie was transported to a medical clinic. Upon arriving, the health care staff managed to remove the retained placenta and saved Mamie’s life. “I could have been a dead person by now,” she said afterwards, grateful for the care she received. “I will forever remember Gblarlay Clinic, and I will advise all my friends that whenever they get pregnant, they should seek medical care at the clinic,” she said before travelling back home with her baby.