Sexual and Reproductive Health in Emergencies

Sexual and Reproductive Health in Emergencies

Natural disasters, armed conflict, and political unrest increase the vulnerability of women and girls and create barriers to accessing reproductive and maternal health services. Sixty percent of preventable maternal deaths take place in settings of conflict, displacement, and natural disasters. Even in crisis, people continue to have sex and bear children, which increases their risk of sexually transmitted infection, pregnancy, and pregnancy-related complications that can lead to illness and death for mother and child. The breakdown in social norms and protective structures increases girls and women’s exposure to gender-based violence and its consequences. When facing an unwanted pregnancy, it is not uncommon for women to perform self-induced abortions, which may result in death without post-abortion care. Consequently, access to sexual and reproductive health services — including family planning, emergency obstetric and neonatal care, and gender-based violence services — is necessary for saving lives in these difficult contexts.

CARE recognizes that humanitarian crises are both cause and consequence of poverty and social injustice. In line with our commitment to girls and women, CARE’s global strategies (program, humanitarian, and advocacy) prioritize sexual and reproductive health programming in all contexts, from emergency response to recovery to development.

CARE uses a range of tools to empower communities to increase resilience as well as prepare effective plans for future emergencies. The Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for Reproductive Health in Crisis Situations, developed by the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises, is CARE’s key approach to addressing women’s sexual and reproductive health needs in the acute phase of emergencies.

CARE’s sexual and reproductive health in emergencies programming has the following key aims:

  1. To ensure people have access to essential lifesaving sexual and reproductive health interventions during an acute emergency. This includes ensuring the delivery of the MISP during an emergency response and working with communities and first responders before an emergency to prepare and plan for sexual and reproductive health services during an emergency response.
  2. To help people recover from crisis by rebuilding / strengthening local health systems to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.

To accomplish this, we focus on these approaches: building clinical and counseling skills through competency training and coaching, strengthening program quality through supportive supervision and data for decision-making, supply chain strengthening from global procurement to last-mile quality control, and context-specific community outreach for social and behavior change.

CARE’s flagship project for sexual and reproductive health in emergencies is SAFPAC.


Other Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Programs:

SRHR: Family Planning

Adolescent SRHR

Young people have sexual and reproductive health needs, too.

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Special consideration has been given to the needs of women and girls whose specific needs add to their vulnerability in disasters. They are at greater risk of facing gender-based violence and psychosocial trauma.

SRHR: Family Planning

Family Planning & Maternal Health

Most maternal deaths are preventable with care.

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 Nang Kam Taung, 22 years, Auxiliary Midwife and babies who were delivered by her at Nam Htan Ma village, Lashio, Myanmar

SRHR: Health System

Health Systems

Strengthening systems and improving workforce effectiveness.

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Women carry food and wood on their heads along the road in northern Sierra Leone.