Humanitarian Response

Date: 20/02/2010

Heightened Risk, Greater Need in Times of Crisis

When emergencies strike, life can change in an instant. Communities in crisis are suddenly deprived of health services. Access may be cut off, yet needs persist, and even escalate.

In any emergency, whether conflict related or due to natural disasters, women and children are the most affected. Women have particular health risks. Those who are pregnant give birth under dangerous conditions and others may be victims of violence, including sexual violence, or exploitation due to their vulnerable situation.

Who needs reproductive health care in a crisis situation?

A pregnant woman needs care before, during and after childbirth. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death and disease among refugee women of child-bearing age.

A new mother may find herself without basic necessities and, separated from her family support, may not know where to go for help.

Women and girls may be forced to offer sex in exchange for food, shelter or protection. Gender-based violence; including sexual violence; is common in armed conflict, especially where combatants mix with civilian populations.

A displaced and traumatized young person who loses family support may engage in high-risk behaviour and is exposed to abuse and exploitation, health problems, violence and substance abuse.

A man, who is also a father, a husband and a brother, needs help to protect and plan his family, particularly when pregnancy and childbirth are risky because of the sudden loss of medical support. He needs to know about HIV prevention and also how to help young family members to deal with displacement or trauma. 

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