By: Madeline Taskier, Partnership Coordinator at Women Deliver
Access to maternal health services is a challenge for many women in developing countries, but women in crisis settings are especially vulnerable to reproductive health risks and maternal health emergencies. Over 42 million people in the world are uprooted and living far from their home countries or regions for months or years at a time—almost half of them are women.
In refugee camps or settlements, female refugees face unique challenges—some women are forced to use sex as currency to obtain food, shelter, or access to water. Many female refugees suffer the consequences of rape used as weapon of war, gender-based violence, and nearly all women face the health risks from poor sanitation and nutrition.
Researchers at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health collaborated with Marie Stopes International (MSI) to bring together all the partners and tools needed to provide a basic standard of reproductive and maternal healthcare for female refugees. Through the RAISE Project (Reproductive Health Access, Information and Services in Emergencies) these partners created high-impact, low-cost approaches to reproductive and maternal health services for women and training for health workers in refugee settings. This approach, MISP (Minimum Initial Service Package), identifies action steps for health workers to address women’s needs in the earliest stages of emergencies. From establishing a 24-hour referral system for women with obstetric complications to providing clean delivery kits for mothers and midwives, RAISE helps health workers on the ground get ready for tough situations.
Along the Thai-Burma border, RAISE’s solutions have helped support some of the 120,000 women living in refugee camps. Since the early 1990s half a million people have been displaced by conflict, a result of political groups clashing over Burma’s dictatorial military government. In Myanmar (Burma) there are approximately 240 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, but in the camps along the border some estimate that one in 12 women die from pregnancy-related causes.
Working with the Mae Tao Clinic and the Burma Medical Association, RAISE trains clinicians for 8 months to provide family planning counseling, emergency obstetric care, gender-based violence counseling, and prevention and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Students from Burma who are permitted entrance into Thailand train with RAISE, and then they return back to Burma to teach their colleagues who are unable to cross the border.
The power of the RAISE project rests in the ability to easily provide clinicians and traditional health providers with a framework to reach this high-need population of women with high-impact healthcare.
- Check out other RAISE projects in Colombia, DRC, Southern Sudan, and Uganda.
- Check out this photo essay on reproductive healthcare in Northern Uganda Refugee Camps.