Integrating sexual and reproductive health into health emergency and disaster risk management
Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is a significant public health need in all communities, including those facing emergencies
Emergencies have a disproportionate effect on the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly women and children. Eight of the ten countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world are in fragile circumstances and are affected by current or recent conflict. Neonatal mortality rates are highest in areas affected by humanitarian emergencies.
Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is a significant public health need in all communities, including those facing emergencies. As stated in the outcome document of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, universal access to reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health, is needed and should be integrated into national strategies and programmes.
In emergency situations, there is often a lack of access to SRH services. These services need to be strengthened in preparation for future events to reduce SRH-related morbidity and mortality in times of emergencies.
This policy brief discusses the integration of SRH in all aspects of health emergency and disaster risk management, both for immediate health needs, such as saving lives in obstetric complications and preventing disease, as well in the long-term to reduce vulnerability and to support sustainable development of health systems and communities.
Management of sexual and reproductive health for emergencies
Health policymakers, emergency managers in health and other sectors, donors and other actors are advised to consider the following actions to integrate SRH into emergency risk management systems, programmes and plans:
- Priority 1: Incorporate SRH into multisectoral and health emergency risk management policies and plans at national and local levels. Allocate human and financial resources to integrate SRH into the national health emergency risk management programmes as part of national plans of action for risk reduction (including preparedness) and in emergency response and recovery plans. Assure SRH services are part of national health policies and stable primary healthcare systems, which builds resilience and capacity for emergencies.
- Priority 2: Integrate SRH into health risk assessment and provide early warning for communities and vulnerable groups. Incorporate assessments of SRH risks, vulnerabilities and capacities at all levels, informed by poverty, gender and disability analyses. Estimate the impact of identified SRH risks (such as vulnerable populations, high percentage of home deliveries, or lack of access to vehicles for obstetric and newborn complications) to strengthen the overall primary health-care system and plan for emergency response to address these concerns. Involve vulnerable groups
in the development and implementation of community early warning systems, ensuring that their needs are addressed and that systems are gender-responsive.
- Priority 3: Create an environment of learning and awareness. Foster an awareness of key SRH risks and actions within a culture of improving community health, safety and resilience at all levels. Include health emergency risk management, including risk assessment, vulnerability reduction, emergency response planning and the MISP in the curricula for SRH workers, and for
the broader health emergency management community. Strengthen media advocacy on the importance of maintaining SRH services during a response.
- Priority 4: Identify and reduce risks for vulnerable communities and SRH services by reducing
underlying risk factors. Address underlying health vulnerabilities of the population by ensuring strong primary health care and preventive health measures with key provisions for SRH (and advance gender equality). Establish community networks to monitor local vulnerabilities and capacities, build all health facilities to withstand local hazards and ensure that these facilities
remain functional to provide SRH services, including care for childbirth and obstetric and newborn complications during emergencies.
- Priority 5: Prepare existing SRH services to absorb impact, adapt, respond to and recover from
emergencies. Adopt specific policies for the inclusion of vulnerable populations (women, adolescents, newborn, displaced and disabled people) that reflect risk assessment, gender and other analyses into disaster preparedness planning. Pre-position reproductive health kits, maintain vehicles to be used for referral of complications, and enact clear policies and procedures
for coordination at all levels to ensure a comprehensive, well-coordinated response.