This guest blog post is written by Sameen Qadir, Student at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Intern at the Women's Refugee Commission
Despite the grey, rainy weather on Monday, more than 100 people gathered for the United States launch of the updated Inter-agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings. The newly-launched manual builds on editions produced in 1996 and 1999, which focused principally on reproductive health in refugee situations. The new manual reflects best practices documented in a range of humanitarian settings around the world, from refugee situations to conflict zones and natural disasters.
The Women's Refugee Commission co-hosted the launch, which was part of the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. United Nations staff, partners of the Inter-agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises, and representatives of various organizations attended. Welcoming speeches by co-hosts Ambassador Gary Quinlan, the Permanent Representative of Australia to the U.N., Ambassador Hasan Kleib, the Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the U.N., and Purnima Mane, the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), kicked off the event. Their addresses highlighted the important role the field manual has played in guiding interventions in humanitarian settings, noting examples from the field in Indonesia. Ambassador Quinlan succinctly stated, "Without addressing reproductive health, we cannot achieve our development goals."
Sandra Krause, Director of the Reproductive Health Program at the Women's Refugee Commission, provided a brief background on the IAWG and encouraged people to join the network, to promote the use of the manual, and to continue working together on the "broadly shared effort." Dr. Grace Kodindo, of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, echoed this collaborative spirit, emphasizing that it is a "living document," open to recommendations and suggestions online as new practices and challenges are faced in the field. Finally, Ashley Wolfington, Reproductive Health Specialist at the International Rescue Committee, spoke on how the contributions of field implementers has enriched the content of the manual and how it has benefited from the input of people who are "not only visionaries, but also practical."
Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, the Chief of UNFPA's Humanitarian Response Branch and the event's moderator, ended her closing remarks looking towards the future. She hailed the advocacy efforts of the Women's Refugee Commission to promote disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, calling on countries to invest in "building resilience, rather than simply a response."
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