On World Refugee Day, Recognizing the Needs of Vulnerable Women and Girls

By Sarina Weiss, Population Connection Field and Outreach Intern

Yasmeen, a 17-year old Syrian refugee, is 9-months pregnant.  After fleeing from violence and war in her home country, she has sought refuge at the Zaatrari refugee camp in Jordan.  The Zaatari camp, located in the barren Jordanian desert, has become ‘home’ to nearly 80,000 refugees.

Yasmeen faces enormous odds.  In crisis settings like this, individuals face harsh conditions with insecurities over even basic needs like food and shelter.  The need for reproductive healthcare is one that is often overlooked, but the lack of access to such care is widely felt.  For example, in fragile and humanitarian settings, more than 500 individuals die every day in pregnancy and childbirth.

June 20th, is World Refugee Day, a day to promote international awareness and action for the over 65 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.

Displaced people looking for reproductive healthcare often face uncertainty, but thanks to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), refugees like Yasmeen have hope.  UNFPA brings healthcare, counseling, and family planning services to disaster areas that otherwise would be without access.  Unfortunately, due to Trump’s recent funding cuts to UNFPA, reproductive healthcare is again at risk.

According to the late Executive Director of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin, “Having the means to give birth safely, prevent unplanned pregnancy, or be safe from sexual violence are human rights,” and “These rights are threatened during conflict or when disaster strikes.”  In crisis settings, UNFPA has helped thousands gain access to these critical services.

Since 2011, over 5 million refugees have fled from violence and war in Syria. Nearly 80,000 of these Syrian refugees have landed in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.  Of these 80,000 refugees, 19,000 are of reproductive age and 2,300 are pregnant.  Thankfully, for many of these women, girls, and individuals in search of reproductive healthcare, UNFPA provides services that can often mean the difference between life and death.  From prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence to reproductive healthcare like family planning and contraceptive access, UNFPA gives refugees back their reproductive freedom.

In 2016, the United States contributed over $69 million to UNFPA, and more than $75 million in the year before, making the U.S. their 4th largest donor. This year, President Trump defunded UNFPA after falsely claiming that the organization supports coercive abortion and forced sterilization in China.  UNFPA immediately refuted this claim “…as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination.”

According to UNFPA, U.S. contributions in 2016 saved 2,340 individuals from death during pregnancy and childbirth, prevented 947,000 unintended pregnancies, and prevented 295,000 unsafe abortions. Now, Trump will use false claims to prevent as many from accessing the reproductive healthcare they need and deserve.

When the U.S. imposes policies aimed to control people’s reproductive rights, there are deadly consequences.  Donald Trump’s attacks on reproductive healthcare threaten the lives of people all over the world – including those like Yasmeen – who are already in the most vulnerable circumstances.

Let’s come together on this World Refugee Day to fight for reproductive rights for refugees and spread awareness for reproductive rights as human rights across the globe.

Categories: Blog