The Asia Pacific Alliance (APA) is hosting its annual meeting in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. An appropriate location, given the theme of this year’s meeting, Refugees and Migrants and their access to Sexual and Reproductive Health.
Conference attendees heard first from fellow APA members, Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand (PPAT) and Population and Community Development Association (PDA), who introduced the migrant and refugee situation through their experiences.
Next, advocates from the Mobile Obstetric Maternal Health Workers (MOM) Project, which delivers maternal health services among internally displaced populations in Eastern Burma; Friends International, which works with street children; the Adolescent Reproductive Health Network on the Thai/Myanmar border; and China Youth Network/Youth Coalition each shared their organization’s work with migrant and refugee populations.
A few key takeaways: first, the rights issue is critically important
in the context of refugees. Often, these individuals are fleeing an
unsafe environment in their home country, circumstances where their
rights were almost certainly being ignored or abused. In the new “host”
country, because reactions are mixed to the influx of migrants and
refugees can often be seen as a burden, the provision of basic
reproductive health (RH) and family planning (FP) services could be
viewed as refugee population control.
Second, all advocates for
sound reproductive health policy need to begin advocating for inclusion
of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in national
reproductive health strategies, policies and initiatives. Otherwise,
the services and supplies demanded by a refugee situation have to be
negotiated and purchased in separate agreements, creating additional
delivery systems in a field already overcrowded with competing systems.
PAI’s work on both The Security Demographic and The Shape of Things to Come
has been our organization’s first foray into linking the fields of
reproductive health and family planning with those engaged in the
security and post-conflict arenas. Additionally, through our Policy
Impact Project, we have discussed with partners in the Reproductive Health Access, Information and Services in Emergencies (RAISE) Initiative the particular challenge of providing integrated and comprehensive RH services in emergency settings.
The 2008 APA conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, has only confirmed for me
the importance of this work, and how PAI must remain committed to its
further exploration and investigation: on behalf of colleagues here in
the Asia-Pacific region, as well as anywhere else conflict and disaster
– both man-made and natural — are threatening the rights and lives of
women and their families.
Read Suzanne’s first post from the APA conference!