Worldwide, more than 350,000 women die every year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth—that’s nearly one every minute. For women affected by conflict or disaster, who are displaced from their homes and communities, the risk of maternal death or injury is especially high. In fact, over 60 percent of the world’s maternal deaths occur in 10 countries, nine of which are currently experiencing or emerging from conflict. With the breakdown of traditional social structures during times of war or conflict, women face an increased threat of sexual abuse, exploitation and violence. And sexual violence puts them at high risk of unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, especially since they often lack access to emergency contraception and emergency care for pregnancy and childbirth complications.
Access to quality health services can mean the difference between life and death. In crisis settings, this access is particularly limited, increasing the risk of maternal death, the main causes of which are: hemorrhage, unsafe abortions, high blood pressure or prolonged and obstructed labor without access to cesarean section. The lack of access to health care also raises the risk of newborn death, usually caused by preterm birth, infection or asphyxia (lack of oxygen) during childbirth. However, there are several steps that can be taken to prevent maternal and newborn death. Training attendants to assist mothers during childbirth and making cesarean section readily available can prevent mothers and their infants from dying needlessly.
Parental Rights Toolkit
- Parental Rights Report Spanish
- Parental Rights Report-Final
- Parental Rights-Make-A-Plan-June-2014-Spanish
The Women’s Refugee Commission calls attention to the urgent need for maternal health services for displaced women and girls.
- The Women’s Refugee Commission makes it easier for humanitarian and development agencies to share their knowledge and expertise on maternal health. These efforts have resulted in partnerships and new reproductive health technologies and approaches.
- A collaborative pilot project in western Tanzania used the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment (NASG) to help manage postpartum hemorrhage and helped saved women’s lives.
- Our community-based family planning efforts in South Sudan trained local health workers to distribute contraceptives. This approach will be adapted in Liberia.
- We developed and launched Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises, a professional community for frontline maternal health workers in crisis settings. This platform is designed to enable health care providers in these areas to share experiences and knowledge and support one another through Facebook and text messaging.
- We promote the incorporation of sexual and reproductive health care in emergency planning to reduce risks during disaster. In the coming years, our focus will expand to the Asia and Pacific Region.
Reports and Tools
- PRIMER: Life-saving Care for Pregnant Women and Girls in War Zones
- MISP Cheat Sheet, revised 2010
- Interagency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings. IAWG on RH in Crises, revised 2010
- Field Friendly Guide to Integrate Emergency Obstetric Care in Humanitarian Programs, revised 2008