Reproductive Health Care Now Guaranteed
in All Emergencies

Box 27


The long-neglected reproductive health needs of refugees are increasingly being met as a result of an initiative by UNFPA and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and non-governmental organizations. A June 1995 interagency symposium elaborated the approach to be taken, described in a field manual on Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations.

In November 1996, UNFPA, UNHCR and the Federation agreed to apply this approach in assisting Rwandese, Burundese and Zairean refugees in the Great Lakes regions of Central Africa. The pilot project, funded by UNFPA and coordinated by the Federation in cooperation with UNHCR, focused on the estimated 220,000 displaced women of reproductive age in the region. The assistance was to be delivered through NGOs working in the field with UNHCR and the Federation.

Under the initiative, the Federation agreed to provide a package of reproductive health care services in addition to the services it normally provides in emergency situations. The package, based on the field manual, addressed needs in: family planning, including contraception; assisted childbirth; complications connected with unsafe abortions; sexual violence including rape; and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. The new services also included care and post-coital contraception for sexually violated women.

“UNFPA recognized that refugees and internally displaced persons and persons in all emergency situations have the same vital human rights, including the right to reproductive health, as people in any community,” said Dr. Nafis Sadik, UNFPA’s Executive Director.