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Report Calls for Sharper Focus on Adolescent Sexual Health Needs in Humanitarian Response

14 June 2013

NEW YORK – Humanitarian organizations must prioritize the sexual and reproductive health needs of displaced adolescents at the earliest opportunity in a crisis to protect young people from sexual violence, sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancy, a report has found.

While relief agencies focus on providing food, water and shelter for refugees in emergencies, the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people, particularly vulnerable girls, too often sit at the bottom of the check list – or don’t feature on the list at all, said the report by the Women’s Refugee Commission and Save the Children.

“The report calls for humanitarian organizations to integrate adolescent reproductive health services at the very beginning of any emergency response,” said Sarah Costa, executive director of the Women’s Refugee Commission, speaking on a panel on Thursday at the United Nations, where the report was presented.

The report catalogues the results of a year-long study, done in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNFPA

On the basis of its findings, it recommends that governments, donors and humanitarian and development organizations effectively address the sexual and reproductive health risks for adolescents in crisis situations by scaling up services in emergencies and by investing in this area.

The price of not doing – of neglecting adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH) – is high, panel members said, particularly in a world with burgeoning and chronic refugee populations due to conflict and natural disaster.

“Young people are not only an important subgroup, but in many conflict and post-conflict zones, they are the majority of the population,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, adding that in conflict zones like Liberia, Sudan and Afghanistan two-thirds of the population are under 25.

Read the full report from Reuters