The European Parliament Working Group on Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS, and Development (EPWG), UNFPA and IPPF EN presented the 2015 UNFPA State of the World Population Report, entitled “Shelter from the Storm: A transformative agenda for women and girls in a crisis-prone world” at the European Parliament on 28 January.
Opening the event, EPWG co-chair Sophie in ’t Veld welcomed the panel underlining that more needs to be done to ensure that sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) is placed higher on the agenda in humanitarian crises, including the provision of adequate funding.
Sietske Steneker, Director of UNFPA Brussels Office, proceeded to present the main findings from the report and highlighted the acute need for SRHR services to be included in humanitarian responses; stressing that whether women live or die in a crisis can depend on this access.
Jelte van Wieren, Director of the Department for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reaffirmed the support of the Netherlands to the provision of emergency contraception and safe abortion to all women and girls in humanitarian situations.
Providing an efficient sexual and reproductive health response during a humanitarian crisis can only be done if a country or region is properly prepared. Nesrine Talbi, Programme Advisor for IPPF EN (the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network), highlighted the importance of preparedness. She presented good practices regarding action planning, stakeholder cooperation and budget availability, and presented the Minimum Initial Service Package that identifies basic essential SRHR services.
Last but not least, Stéphanie de Maesschalck and Bojan Jovanoski presented experiences from the field. Stéphanie de Maesschalck, medical doctor in an asylum centre for FEDASIL, the federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers, described the many challenges in providing comprehensive SRHR services in an asylum centre in Belgium. Bojan Jovanoski (joining by video), Executive Director of the Association for Health Education and Research (HERA) in Macedonia, described how his organisation provides SRHR services to a steadily growing refugee population in transit, as well as the critical needs in terms of sexual and gender-based violence.
EPWG co-chair Heidi Hautala concluded the meeting by emphasising the grave need for scaling up funding, with crises growing around the world.