Providing choice during a humanitarian crisis

In the Northern Central region of Burkina Faso, Yvette Yoda is part of a team of MSI Ladies working to provide life-saving reproductive healthcare services to women and girls who have been forced from their homes by violence. Learn how reproductive choice can play a key role to helping women control their own futures in humanitarian crisis settings. 

Why is reproductive choice important in emergency settings? 

Women and girls face additional risks in humanitarian settings that might lead them to want sexual and reproductive healthcare. 

When the future is uncertain, many woman want to prevent unintended pregnancies or end their pregnancies. Despite the increased need for sexual and reproductive healthcare services, they are often inaccessible as governments prioritize the provision of shelter, food, and water. This puts women at high risk. 

Yvette Yoda is seeing this in Burkina Faso, where violent conflict has displaced millions. Women are eager to prevent unintended pregnancies, in part due to the increased risk of dying during childbirth.   

Alima Ouédraogo, social marketing agent in Ziniaré, explains to patients the operation of contraception Sayana Press at the Health Centre of Barkuintenga.

MSI works to ensure that women experiencing all types of crises are able to access the care they need. Through outreach teams, MSI’s bold providers care for internally displaced people living in camps. We provide a full range of reproductive healthcare services from HIV testing, contraceptives and cervical cancer screening, to services specific to survivors of gender based sexual violence.  

By bringing services to internally displaced women, we are able to ensure they continue to have control over their bodies — even without control over their location.  

Climate crisis turned humanitarian crisis

When natural disasters like floods, droughts and storms hit, the climate crisis becomes a humanitarian crisis. Because women and girls are already vulnerable, the displacement of large populations has a disproportionate impact on them.     

In summer of 2022, over thirty million in Pakistan were affected by historic flooding due to heavy rains. When the flooding first began, accessing reproductive healthcare became nearly impossible. Driven from their homes, women sought ways to prevent unintended pregnancies or help with pre-natal care, but no services were available.  

In response, MSI quickly began sending out teams of providers through the locally registered Marie Stopes Society (MSS).  With specially equipped MSS vans, our teams were able to provide women with a range of services — from long term birth control methods to delivery kits.  

The worsening of the climate crisis means an increase in natural disasters — and an increase in women unable to access sexual and reproductive healthcare. With help from our bold providers, MSI continues to get to the front lines of climate crisis disasters ensuring all women are able to access necessary healthcare.  

Choice during a pandemic 

When COVID-19 first began, women faced obstacles accessing essential reproductive health services. Since 2020, we’ve been adapting and taking action to address this with solutions — including ensuring both our clients and team members stay safe.  

During the first wave of national lockdowns, women in countries like Nepal were immediately impacted. Due to mobility restrictions, both clients and providers struggled to access MSI Nepal’s centers, resulting in their closure. But, the demand for reproductive health services continued. MSI Nepal’s contact centers were quickly flooded with calls from women seeking necessary sexual and reproductive services.  

Nurse Sharmila Khatri counsels Pabitra Jimee at an MSI center in Nepal.

Sarita Ojha, a MSI Nepal counselor, remembered a call she received, “This woman was crying on the phone. ‘When will your services restart? I cannot afford to have another child. Please help me!’ It really broke my heart not to have an affirmative answer for her.” 

MSI Nepal managed to overcome many of the challenges they encountered during Covid by working in partnership with the local government. After re-opening 7 clinics, MSI Nepal is back and serving women with all the necessary care. 

Anywhere, any crisis 

Whether it’s serving women in camps due to being internally displaced or wading across flooded roads to reach women during climate-crisis impacted areas, our teams are dedicated to delivering women’s healthcare in all types of crises — always protecting women’s rights to control their own bodies. 

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