Health officials, many from countries either in or recovering from long-running crises, are meeting at a United Nations forum in Granada, Spain, to find ways to meet the neglected sexual and reproductive health needs of people during and immediately after crisis situations.
The “Consultation on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Protracted Crises and Recovery” is organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in association with the Andalusian School of Public Health.
“Today, there are still barriers to the full and effective implementation of sexual and reproductive health services during protracted crises and in the recovery phase that follows,” says Dr. Daniel Lopez Acunã, Director of Recovery and Transition Programmes in WHO’s Health Action in Crises Cluster.
“This results in lower coverage of family planning, much higher rates of maternal mortality, ranging from 660 to1,800 deaths for every 100,000 live births, and in a decreased ability to prevent and manage gender-based violence.”
The three-day forum brings together health officials from countries such as Sudan, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Nepal and the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as representatives of UN agencies involved in health, humanitarian partner organizations, academia and the donor community.
In addition to reviewing past experiences and lessons learned, the gathering will focus on identifying ways to include sexual and reproductive health services as a central part of humanitarian and recovery health interventions.
“We are observing a shift in pattern in emergencies from the acute and sudden onset to a more complex situation of recurrent and protracted crises,” says Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Chief of UNFPA’s Humanitarian Response Branch. “Humanitarian response that follows also needs to shift its focus increasingly on achieving longer-term objectives that allow for more sustainable action.”
The best way to address reproductive health needs in protracted crises and recovery phases, in her view, is to ensure all stakeholders work together to re-establish a functional health system.
“Full establishment of comprehensive health services from primary health care up to tertiary level care can only be achieved by providing financial resources, strengthening health systems, and developing human resource that will address the sexual and reproductive health needs of the affected population.”