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  • We Can’t Help “Every Woman” if We Forget Refugees

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    Over the last decade there has been some terrific progress in the development sector, most notably in the recognition of women as drivers of change and the importance of their political, economic and social participation in society. We’re even seeing recognition of the importance of sexual and reproductive health not only as a human right but as an important factor in economic development.

    What is often not acknowledged in these discussions – or at least not seriously – are the women in displacement, even while their numbers reach jaw dropping highs.

    The women – and girls – most at risk for preventable maternal mortality currently live or soon will in fragile or humanitarian settings. In fact, in the next 15 years, the years covered by the Sustainable Development Goals, more than 60 percent of preventable maternal deaths will claim these women.

    Additionally, 53 percent of the deaths of children under five and a staggering 45 percent of newborn deaths will happen among displaced populations. Violence and conflict force ordinary people to flee their homes, often with little more than the clothes on their backs and then robs families of their children.

    And almost all of these deaths are preventable.   

    We cannot meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals without meeting the reproductive health needs of this population. We cannot forget to provide the most basic reproductive health care in the immediate response to a humanitarian crisis. Labor can’t be postponed until the crisis is over. 

    And we cannot expect women to live 20 or more years in displacement without addressing their need for health care and the dignity to control their childbearing.

    Every Woman, Every Child, a global movement launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010, that mobilizes and intensifies international and national action by governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women and children around the world. The United Nations has re-launched the initiative to include Every Adolescent and has committed to reach these populations “Every Where.”

    Under most circumstances, we should be wary of policies or programs that attempt to reach “every” anything.  Everybody, every day, everywhere, etc. It’s not possible to design one program that reaches all people.

    But the revisions to the Every Woman Every Child initiative that admonishes us to reach women, children and adolescents everywhere are an important point because we cannot successfully or sustainably meet our goals to save women and children, alleviate poverty, and create a better world for all of us if we ignore those people who are hardest to reach.