“Golden Moment” hinges on family planning reaching women in crisis zones
10 Jul 2012 - Giving women in conflict or disaster-hit communities more control over when and whether to have children will be key to the success of global efforts to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries.
As world leaders meet July 11 in London for the so-called "golden moment summit" to discuss expanding access to family planning in the world’s poorest nations, the International Rescue Committee is urging donors to make the overlooked needs of women in crisis-affected countries a priority.
Numerous studies indicate women in crisis zones are more likely to die in childbirth than women in poor but stable countries, yet they have far less access to lifesaving family planning services that would help them avoid unintended and potentially life-threatening pregnancies.
“Six countries alone contribute to half of the world’s maternal deaths and it’s no surprise that most of them are plagued by conflict and disaster,” says Dr. Dhammika Perera, who oversees the IRC’s global reproductive health programs. “For vulnerable women in crisis-hit communities, access to contraception can be the difference between life and death.”
In these settings, health facilities are often destroyed or abandoned, supply routes are cut and violence impedes access to clinics. And in many volatile areas, there are few reproductive health services to begin with due to chronic under-funding. Countries affected by conflict receive only half the amount of foreign aid for reproductive health compared with developing countries that are stable.
“The false perception that providing modern contraceptive services in a crisis zone is too difficult has put off donors from funding family planning,” says Dr. Perera. “But when quality voluntary family planning programs are available, even in unstable settings with traditionally low contraceptive use, we find that women and men seek them out.”
The IRC’s work proves that a range of modern short and long-term contraceptive methods – including pills, injections, implants and IUDs – are all viable options in challenging environments where women are most at risk of complications and death from unintended pregnancies.
In 2011 alone, 71,000 women across a number of crisis-affected countries including Chad, South Sudan and Pakistan, started using modern contraceptive methods as part of an IRC program to reduce mortality during pregnancy and childbirth. And that excludes tens of thousands more condom takers.
The IRC’s approach to increasing the use of family planning among patients includes making more methods available, training health care workers to counsel women about options and perform services and working with community groups to spread the word about family planning.
“The lack of family planning funding for conflict-affected women is short-sighted and costing lives,” says Dr. Perera. “If delegates to the London summit want to take a meaningful step forward in reducing maternal mortality, then expanding family planning in crisis zones is a critical investment.”
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About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee works in more than 40 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by disaster, conflict and oppression. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, clean water, sanitation, learning programmes for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild.
About Reproductive Health at the IRC: The IRC provides health and reproductive health services in 22 countries.. The IRC’s reproductive health programs reach 11 million people in under-resourced, unstable and difficult-to-reach environments. The IRC’s reproductive health care staff supports 1,171 health facilities and works to strengthen country government’s capacity to provide quality reproductive health services.
For more information, visit www.Rescue.org.