Abuse, sexual exploitation, violence, and forced marriage all increase during crises, as well as illnesses and deaths related to reproductive health and pregnancy. Sexual and reproductive health services are difficult to access, if they exist at all, leaving women with few resources if they are victims of violence or are giving birth.
The experiences of women in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan demonstrate how all these risks intersect. The camp is populated with Syrian refugees, who are already dealing with the psychological trauma of displacement. In such an insecure atmosphere, many families arrange marriages for their adolescent daughters, hoping it will keep them safe. However, child marriage exposes girls to many other dangers, especially pregnancy. In Za’atari, many of the pregnant women that health care workers attend are under 15. Many girls fear violence from their husband if they try to prevent or delay pregnancy. Once girls get married, it becomes difficult to continue their education and achieve their full potential.
UNFPA’s State of the World Population report from 2015 does a great job going into detail about the dynamics that threaten women and girls in humanitarian crises, and the steps that can be taken to address it.
- Include family planning in basic emergency supplies delivered to those affected by the crisis, rather than treating it as an additional, optional service.
- Couple family planning supplies with education targeted at women and men about how delaying first pregnancy and increasing the spacing between pregnancies is good for the health of the mother and the whole family.
- Connect women, who may be dispersed in rural, hard-to-reach areas, to maternal and newborn health services.
- Target assistance to HIV treatment and prevention.
- Give adolescents access to education and vocational training. This will mitigate the vulnerability they face due to poverty and separation from their families, and give them the tools to be active advocates for positive change.
- In all areas, work with local women to understand their unique challenges, as well as their input on solutions that make sense given their needs and context.
By Morgan, MPP '17
WAPPP Summer Intern Blog
Originally posted on Wanted, Safe, Fulfilled: UNFPA Summer 2016