Access to health services crucial for women and girls during crises

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Internally displaced women hold their ration tickets while waiting for a World Food Programme distribution in Mastura, West Darfur, Sudan. Photo: UNHCR/Helen Caux

Ensuring the health needs of women and adolescent girls affected by natural disasters and conflicts can accelerate recovery from these crises, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has said.

Its State of World Population 2015 report finds access to basic sexual and reproductive health services by these groups is often neglected in humanitarian response.

The agency says three-fifths of maternal deaths occur in countries affected by conflict or disaster, while more than 500 women and adolescent girls in these settings die each day during pregnancy and childbirth.

Dianne Penn reports.

Of the 100 million people worldwide who require humanitarian assistance, more than a quarter, or 26 million, are women and adolescent girls in their childbearing years.

Whether they live or die during a crisis often depends on their access to basic sexual and reproductive health services, such as midwives and HIV prevention, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Alanna Armitage is director of the UNFPA office in Geneva:

"Unfortunately, gender-based discrimination survives even the worst humanitarian settings. Without traditional protection of family and community, women and adolescent girls can easily become victims of sexual violence, unintended pregnancies, and sexually transmitted infections. UNFPA's role is to ensure that women have access to safe delivery and other services that protect the lives of mothers and children, no matter the circumstances."

Last year, UNFPA helped 35 million women and adolescent girls in nearly 40 countries in crisis to access care services, such as reproductive health equipment and medicines.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’13″

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