We Can't Forget about the Reproductive Health Needs of Adolescent Girls in Humanitarian Settings


Humanitarian settings refer to a place where there has been a man-made or natural disaster. When these disasters strike, populations are often forced to leave their communities or country, and are forced to resettle. While people indeed need food, shelter, and water in humanitarian settings, there are also special reproductive health needs that women and adolescent girls face. Julianne Deitch with the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) sits down with us to talk about these specific reproductive health needs for adolescent girls in humanitarian settings.

Basic reproductive health needs for girls in refugee settings should be dispensed immediately along with food, water, and shelter. Since adolescent girls in humanitarian settings often face separation from their families, dropping out of school, and losing their friends and community, there exists a heightened danger. This puts them at risk of sexual and gender-based violence, and also places adult roles on girls to contribute (collecting firewood, doing work around the home, etc.). Unfortunately, this means more room for girls to experience transactional sex, early marriage, and gender-based violence.

WRC garners active engagement with girls in adolescent settings which allows them to speak openly and honestly about their reproductive health needs. Insight gained from research (which includes art therapy and group discussion) allows WRC to translate that evidence into real action. WRC’s current work in Iraq, Lebanon, and Bangladesh has shown that safe spaces for women and girls are vital for program delivery and linking girls to sexual and reproductive health services.

WRC has found that girls in Lebanon and Iraq, like any teenagers, are tied to their cellphones. They are accessing the internet to find information on sexual and reproductive health, anatomy, puberty, contraception, menstruation, and marriage. Parents and guardians have voiced concern that girls might stumble upon inappropriate content when doing so, which is why WRC is introducing an online platform that provides safe, accurate, and reliable SRH information for girls in humanitarian settings to access.

Photo by United Nations on Flickr

Links from this episode

Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC)
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”Innovative approaches to understanding the reproductive health needs of adolescent girls affected by conflict or displacement”

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