Reproductive health assistance for Rohingya refugees

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rohingya refugee women and girls

In partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ipas Bangladesh is working to strengthen reproductive health services for Rohingya refugees at two camps and six government health facilities in Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh. In recent weeks, nearly 400,000 Rohingya fleeing a brutal campaign of persecution by government military forces in Myanmar have crossed the border into Bangladesh, creating a new and massive humanitarian crisis.

“These forced migrant women and adolescents are desperately in need of reproductive health services, but their access to these services is very limited or even absent,” says Dr. Sayed Rubayet, Ipas Bangladesh Country Director. For women living in refugee camps where limited sexual and reproductive health services are available, the situation is especially dire, as they are not permitted to leave the camps and seek services elsewhere.

Worldwide, the estimated 26 million women and girls living in crisis settings often lack access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and safe abortion care. Yet they are known to experience increased levels of exploitation and sexual violence, making them particularly vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion. In the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, there already are reports of “high levels” of rape, says Rubayet. Working with UNFPA, Ipas Bangladesh plans to send trainers to health facilities in the camps and to surrounding government health facilities for the many refugees currently outside any formal camp setting in Cox’s Bazar District. The trainers will provide on-site training for health workers in postabortion care and menstrual regulation (a procedure for establishing non-pregnancy).

As a member of the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises, Ipas has been involved in efforts for many years to advance the sexual and reproductive health of people affected by crises. With the number of people living in crisis settings continuing to swell, Ipas is working with partners to step up efforts to ensure that reproductive health services, including contraception and safe abortion care, is integrated into humanitarian response programs. As Rubayet says of the current situation in Bangladesh, “We will do everything we can to protect the reproductive health rights of these women and girls. They have had to leave their homes and flee their country, but they are still entitled to basic health and human rights.”