Thousands of women on the move in Europe need reproductive healthcare – UN

A woman holds a small child, while others who have fled their homes amid the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis stand behind her, on a rainy day near the town of Gevgelija, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on the border with Greece. Photo: UNICEF/Tomislav Georgiev

22 September 2015 – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today stressed the need to ensure women refugees and migrants moving across Europe have access to life-saving sexual and reproductive healthcare, as it appealed for $4.2 million for humanitarian assistance.

“Thousands of women and girls, some of them pregnant, are on the move along the transit routes in the Balkans, often without access to basic hygiene and health services and with little protection from violence. As most of the women and girls are constantly moving, and often not registered, we need a swift, mobile and highly flexible response to meet their needs,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

According to a news release issued by UNFPA, about 13 per cent of refugees and migrants entering Europe are women. If the crisis worsens, the agency has projected an estimate of 70,000 women to be moving along the Balkans route over the next six months. Of these women, 4,200 are likely to be pregnant and about 1,400 are at risk of sexual violence.

“We must ensure that women and girls can make their journey safely, and that they get the services they need to stay healthy along the way. These investments help save lives now, and many of them also help build sustainable capacities that the host populations will continue to benefit from in the future,” added Dr. Osotimehin.

UNFPA plans to distribute 70,000 dignity kits over the next six months to serve the projected amount of women travelling through the area. The kit would include basic hygiene and healthcare items that can help women and girls to preserve their dignity on the move. Mobile clinics will be set up at strategic points, staffed with gynaecologists and nurses along with materials for safe-deliveries and prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

UNFPA will also boost the capacity of governments and civil society groups in the affected countries to provide quality health services for women and to prevent and manage sexual and gender-based violence.

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