A new resource to assess the reproductive health needs of women displaced from conflict-affected regions throughout the world has been developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 80 percent of the world's refugees and internally displaced people are women and children. The new toolkit, Reproductive Health Assessment Toolkit for Conflict- Affected Women, is the response of the CDC's Division of Reproductive Health (DRH) to the ongoing need for resources that assist health, medical and government officials involved in refugee relief.
"Ensuring the reproductive health needs are met for women from conflict settings is a challenge, but we believe this toolkit is a positive step forward in generating information that can quickly identify and better address health needs of women affected by regional conflicts or public health emergencies," said CDC's Dr. Marianne Zotti, senior health scientist, Division of Reproductive Health, who developed the toolkit. "The resources in this toolkit will increase the ability of organizations to identify health issues, gauge the extent of health problems and take steps sooner to address health needs."
The toolkit will help support efforts of government and volunteer organizations, as well as United Nations agencies that provide reproductive health services to conflict-affected women. For example, in two refugee camps in Ethiopia, findings showed that the majority of women had experienced physical or sexual violence. To address this problem, briefings were held with camp workers and in the community to raise awareness regarding violence against women.
The toolkit can be used to collect and analyze data on safe motherhood, family planning, sexual history, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, female genital cutting, and emotional health. Results of the assessment can guide organizations in selecting, promoting, and enhancing programs and services to improve the health of women and their families.
Organizations that can benefit from the toolkit include CARE International, the American Refugee Committee, the International Rescue Committee, the African Medical Research Foundation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and other partners. The toolkit was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the CDC Foundation for women refugees fleeing their homes who are often vulnerable to critical health issues including reproductive health concerns such as ensuring safe pregnancies and deliveries, and responding to and preventing violence against women.
CDC decided to develop the toolkit in 2003 after receiving repeated requests for assistance to assess reproductive health needs in conflict settings. The toolkit includes step-by-step instructions on implementing all aspects of the assessment with minimal assistance from CDC. It empowers organizations to be able to identify their own needs and build their own capacity.
The toolkit was pilot tested in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and among displaced persons in Colombia. "What is wonderful about this toolkit is that it is adaptable to various settings where emergencies have occurred and can benefit people, particularly women and infants, displaced by conflict or natural disasters occurring domestically or internationally," said John Lehnherr, acting director of CDC's Division of Reproductive Health.
CDC officially began a reproductive health for refugees program in 1998.