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Aid Group: Refugees Need Family Planning Services

The lack of contraception in refugee settlements threatens the health of pregnant women and girls and the well-being of their families. (Karam Foundation)
The lack of contraception in refugee settlements threatens the health of pregnant women and girls and the well-being of their families. (Karam Foundation)
March 10, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - More than 5 million Syrians have fled war and poverty in their country. More than half of them are women and girls, many of whom are of child-bearing age and don't have access to contraceptives.

According to the Women's Refugee Commission, one in five women and girls will be pregnant in an emergency situation and 15 percent of them will experience life-threatening complications. Chris Purdy, president of DKT International, a nonprofit group that works around the globe to make sure family planning products and HIV tests are available, said war doesn't mean that sex stops.

"Women and couples who are fleeing the misery, poverty, war, the last thing they need is to have a newborn baby," he said, "especially as they're trying to improve their lives."

DKT International is funded by the sale of contraceptive products and through donations, and is active in more than 20 countries. It has opened its first family planning clinic in Chevy Chase and Purdy said there are plans to open more in the United States.

DKT recently donated 20,000 condoms to refugees staying on the Greek island of Lesbos. Purdy said it's a short-term answer, but will prevent unwanted pregnancies.

"It's usually easier to provide short-acting methods rather than setting up a clinic and inserting IUDs and making sure trained personnel is there," he said, "and providing condoms and emergency contraceptives and things like that is an imperfect short-term solution."

Purdy said the ability to choose when to have children and how many to have is a fundamental right. He said women in refugee settlements struggle with unplanned and poorly spaced pregnancies, and have no options because of lack of access to contraceptives. DKT's goal, he said, is to make sure every child in the world is a wanted child.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD