UNFPAState of World Population 2004
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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2004: Reproductive Health for Communities in Crisis
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Reproductive Health for Communities in Crisis

Safe Motherhood
Family Planning
Sexual and Gender-based Violence
HIV/AIDS and Other STIs
Adolescent Reproductive Health
Gains and Gaps

Family Planning

Family planning is often considered to be of secondary concern in an emergency or post-conflict setting. But in a war-torn country like Angola or Sierra Leone, where adequate prenatal care, assisted delivery and emergency obstetric care are not available, as many as one in nine women will die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth over the course of their lives. For women in crisis settings, an unplanned pregnancy can be fatal.

Neglecting family planning can have other serious consequences, including unsafe abortions resulting from unwanted pregnancies, pregnancies spaced too closely together, dangerous pregnancies in women who are too old or too young, and the transmission of STIs including HIV/AIDS.

Maintaining a steady supply of contraceptives can be a major challenge in an emergency. Transportation routes may be cut off, distribution networks dissolved and health facilities destroyed. Existing supplies may fall far short of demand when large numbers of people move into a new location.

Although many women in these settings choose to become pregnant, large numbers who would prefer not to face the difficulties of pregnancy, childbirth or having a baby in a displacement camp have no choice because of lack of access to condoms or other methods of contraception.

Even where services and supplies are available, a number of factors can impede their use. A 2001 assessment by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children found that many Angolan refugees in Zambia were reluctant to use family planning methods, despite their availability. The barriers identified included: resistance by husbands; religious and community beliefs that women should have as many children as they can have; lack of community-based distribution programmes; and the difficulty women have in persuading their partners to use condoms. To promote acceptance of family planning methods, the commission recommended a communications campaign targeting men and the ongoing training of peer educators and community workers.(3)

In emergency settings around the world, UNFPA has supplied free condoms as the first step towards restoring family planning services. When the security situation permits, the Fund conducts rapid assessments to identify family planning needs, and often is able to provide relevant background information on the population, including family planning method preferences. When planning medium- and longer-term programmes, UNFPA and its partners endeavour to involve women, men and adolescents from the affected populations, to help ensure appropriate, culturally sensitive and effective family planning services.

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