Women and girls are fourteen times more likely to die in disasters than men as they face the brunt of any crisis. They suffer increased violence - rape, torture, and early and forced marriage - while the very security and health services that could protect or save them are denied. The cost is simple: they pay with their lives.
IPPF is a leading advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including universal access to contraceptives, gender equality and reproductive health services in crisis and non-crisis settings. It is an international network that delivers life-saving sexual and reproductive health services in over 170 countries.
On the second of March they held a special reception at Parliament House to share the heroic work of its partners in Syria and Vanuatu, and focus attention on why SRHR in emergencies is so critical to protecting lives.
Read on below to see highlights of the speeches given.
Moderator: APGPD Chair, Dr Sharman Stone MP
Dr Lama Mouakea, Executive Director, Syrian Family Planning Association
Tewodros Melesse (Director General IPPF)
Ms Lubna Baqi (UNFPA – Asia Pacific Deputy Regional Director)
Aditi Ghosh, Director of SPRINT
Julie Aru, Acting Executive Director, Vanuatu Family Health Association
Aditi Ghosh, Director of the SPRINT Initiative, had just returned from Fiji where she was implementing the IPPF SPRINT Humanitarian response to Cyclone Winston.
She said that women and girls are 14 times more likely to die in an emergency than men. When visiting some of the affected areas in the Western Province of Fiji, she heard some horrific stories that illustrate further why protecting women and girls from violence and providing for their health needs is so critical. One woman spoke to her about how she locked herself and her 10 month old daughter inside a toilet while the cyclone raged outside, shattering the doors and windows of her house. Another woman told her that she was raped while she was cooking dinner for her family just outside the evacuation centre.
The SPRINT Initiative, a flagship program of the IPPF and funded by the Australian Government, prepares for and responds to major crises to provide sexual and reproductive health services – called the Minimum Initial Service Package for Reproductive Health. This initiative aims to ensure that this package is available and implemented at the onset of every emergency, and then to transition to the more comprehensive Integrated Package of services that is tailored to the particular needs of the crisis.
The SPRINT initiative has trained over 4500 humanitarian workers across more than 80 countries. More than 754,000 people have benefitted from this program, which has responded to 62. 77% of our clients are women and girls who would have been otherwise likely denied such life-saving and life-changing benefits of SRHR.
Julie Aru, a midwife by profession, and Acting Executive Director of the Vanuatu Family Health Association, coordinated the Vanuatu Family Health Humanitarian response in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam in 2015.
‘Try to imagine a family going to sleep in the dark, in a tent, community hall, or church with no water, no food, no protection, and no basic health services. This is what it was like in Vanuatu when cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in March 2015.’
‘The situation was devastating.’
16 people were reported killed, 67,000 homes were lost in Port Vila, almost 4000 people were accommodated in community centres in Vila and all food crops were badly damaged. With health centres and hospitals damaged, medical supplies and services were in very short supply.
Young women were unable to access contraception and essential sanitary items, leaving them at increased risk of sexual infections, unplanned pregnancy and disease.
A member of the IPPF, Vanuatu Family Health was able to work with SPRINT to fill the gaps in reproductive healthcare. They provided care to almost 4000 pregnant women and contraception to over 15,000.
‘I would like to stress that being better prepared would improve the support and protection for girls and young women.’
‘I would like to recognize the crucial roles that the Australian Government and development partners play in advocating for maternal and child health. An emphasis on making the right to good sexual and reproductive health is an integral part of national and global development frameworks and budgets.’