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Agencies Highlight Need to Include Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Emergency Preparedness and Planning

October 12, 2012, New York, NY—The Women’s Refugee Commission marks International Disaster Risk Reduction Day today, and commends the focus on women and girls as a force of resilience as this year’s theme.

Humanitarian emergencies have a disproportionate effect on the poorest and most vulner­able, particularly women and children.

“Involving communities, and working directly with women and girls, not only helps to identify their specific vulnerabilities, but allows us to work together to leverage their strengths and ultimately reduce the gendered impact of disasters,” said Jennifer Schlecht, senior program officer, sexual and reproductive health. “Women and girls can be a crucial force of resilience.”

The Women's Refugee Commission is invested in work that focuses on reducing sexual and reproductive-related death, illness and disability during and following an emergency through preparedness efforts. In addition to piloting work in Haiti and the Philippines to empower communities to reduce sexual and reproductive health vulnerabilities, it is also helping to lead efforts at the global level to bring attention to sexual and reproductive health needs. 

Today, the Women's Refugee Commission joins partner agencies World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Population Fund, SPRINT Initiative, International Planned Parenthood Foundation and CARE, to present a new policy brief on Integrating Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights within Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management (HEDRM) systems. The brief is launched on behalf of the official reproductive health sub-working group of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. It highlights the importance of including sexual and reproductive health within preparedness and response efforts across all priority areas of the Hyogo Framework for Action.[1] Its inclusion will help to reduce sexual and reproductive health-related risks and strengthen implementation of the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for Reproductive Health in the days and weeks immediately following an emergency.

The Women’s Refugee Commission expresses its firm support for this policy brief and related work. “Having worked for years in humanitarian response, we see the value of investing in preparedness,” said Schlecht. “It is our hope and firm belief that such investments will reduce the  impact of disasters on women and girls, as well as reduce the maternal and neonatal mortality left in its aftermath.”

Read about the Women's Refugee Commission’s disaster risk reduction work here.

[1] The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is the first plan to explain, describe and detail the work that is required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses. Its goal is to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015 by building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. This means reducing loss of lives and social, economic and environmental assets when hazards strike. From http://www.unisdr.org/we/coordinate/hfa.