Every woman deserves the right to choose, but emergency settings present serious barriers.
Often there's a desperate shortage of clinical services, health workers and commodities, as well as stigma, discrimination, and legal and policy restrictions.
One of the most critical gaps is the lack of provision for family planning, safe abortion services and post-abortion care. Throughout our country programmes we deliver sexual and reproductive health services to women in fragile states, conflict zones and during times of natural disaster.
Although we are not a humanitarian agency as such, our teams work in a large and growing number of unstable and emergency settings. For us, sexual and reproductive health is an essential human right; a life-saving component of any humanitarian response and one that needs a much greater international commitment.
We believe sexual and reproductive health is a life-saving component of any humanitarian response, and one that needs a much greater international commitment.
Women's risk of dying in childbirth increases dramatically in humanitarian settings, and 50% of maternal deaths occur in fragile states.
In emergency settings, women’s reproductive health needs are often invisible in the rush to provide other essential services.
Yet the risk of dying in childbirth increases dramatically in humanitarian settings, and 50% of maternal deaths occur in fragile states. Highest levels of sexual violence occur when conflict and disorder are at their height - at the same time as providers are evacuating - and women’s health and protection needs are not always integrated into the provision of other essential services such as shelter, water, food and vaccinations.
Neglecting reproductive health can have serious consequences, not only with increased preventable maternal and infant deaths, but also unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
The international community needs to be braver - to provide what women actually need rather than what they feel most comfortable with providing.
In countries as such as Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Yemen, Marie Stopes International works in partnership with humanitarian agencies, governments and the private sector to provide reproductive health services as part of a basic healthcare package.
We use various delivery channels to reach the most marginalised communities, providing health commodities and services as well as technical support for local healthcare providers.
Our teams in Bangladesh and Myanmar regularly provide assistance during floods and cyclones. In Bangladesh we have clinical outreach teams who travel to hard-to-reach parts of the country by boat, car and foot bringing contraceptive services to women so they can plan their families as they wish and better deal with their challenging environment.
Marie Stopes Afghanistan was one of the first aid agencies into Kabul in 2002, bringing desperately needed services to Afghan women. As well as direct service delivery we are working with the government to help strengthen the national health system by building the capacity of the public and private sector.
Helping other humanitarian agencies to better respond to reproductive health needs is a strong component of our work. Marie Stopes International is part of the Interagency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crisis and was the leading agency in the Reproductive Health Access Information and Services in Emergencies (RAISE) initiative.
Training is also an important aspect of our work. Our dedicated centre in Kenya’s capital Nairobi has provided training to civil society organisations, the UN system, government and NGOs on incorporating reproductive care in their emergency response. The centre provides competency based clinical training and teaches trainers of family planning, post-abortion care, clinical care for sexual violence survivors and emergency obstetric care.
We believe access to sexual and reproductive health services is a universal human right, and our work in humanitarian settings is just one way in which we're making this a reality for everyone.
Providing services alone will not secure universal access to contraception or safe abortion. To create real change we work with governments to transform the environments in which we operate.
Outreach is our most effective way of reaching people who don’t have access to contraception. We will drive, fly, sail or trek to rural and remote communities lacking reproductive health services.
Our teams are making real impact in 37 countries round the world, delivering services on the ground and building the capacity of national health systems.