ISTANBUL, Turkey – A sudden outbreak of political violence, an extreme weather event, an earthquake – any of these crisis situations can threaten the livelihoods and long-term well being of affected populations. More critically, the conditions immediately following the onset of a crisis can affect people’s very survival. Humanitarian response in emergency situations has traditionally focused on the need to ensure basic services for provision of food and water, shelter, sanitation and primary health care.
In addition to traditional humanitarian responses, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has long underscored the need to provide sexual and reproductive health services in crisis settings to prevent maternal and child deaths, as well as to address the consequences of sexual violence and prevent the transmission of HIV. On World Humanitarian Day, the United Nations and its partners seek to honor aid workers around the globe. “Building national capacity for humanitarian preparedness and response is central to effective and timely humanitarian action,” says Ms. Thea Fierens, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Building on lessons learned in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, UNFPA has reiterated the need for improved global capacity to deliver sexual and reproductive health programming in crisis and post-crisis situations. As a result, the Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) has committed to building capacity in the region to integrate sexual and reproductive health into emergency preparedness plans and humanitarian response strategies.
“Emergency capacity building is critical to ensuring that the sexual and reproductive health of women and young people are not overlooked in times of crisis,” says Ms. Fierens. In this vein, the Regional Office has begun rolling out its first round of capacity-building activities aimed at seven priority countries that have experienced humanitarian emergencies in the recent past: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Moldova and Turkey.
Capacity Building Roll-Out
Istanbul Regional ToT
UNFPA is supporting the existing “SPRINT initiative”, a programme spearheaded in the region by the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF). This initiative seeks to promote access to sexual and reproductive health services in crisis and post-crisis situations, as well as to increase regional capacity to implement the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP). MISP is a coordinated set of priority activities designed to be implemented from the onset of an emergency situation. These activities aim to prevent and manage the consequences of sexual violence, reduce HIV transmission, prevent excess maternal and newborn deaths, as well as provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. During implementation of the MISP, measures should also be put in place to ensure that people have access to quality sexual and reproductive health services following the crisis.
In collaboration with IPPF, UNFPA supported the first regional Training-of-Trainers (ToT) workshop in Eastern Europe and Central Asia for sexual and reproductive health in humanitarian settings. During the training, held in Istanbul, sexual and reproductive health coordinators from the seven priority countries established country coordination teams and developed national action plans for rolling out the first phase of MISP. Further, Country Teams gained skills to advocate for sexual and reproductive health services in crisis settings, and learned techniques for training key partners to implement MISP in their respective countries. Participants were also introduced to various humanitarian response tools, including the “Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings”, developed by UNFPA and Save the Children, USA.
Turkmenistan Capacity Building Workshop
“The integration of sexual and reproductive health into emergency preparedness and contingency plans is a key component of effective humanitarian response in the region,” said Ms. Fierens, adding that once national action plans are finalized, these countries should continue to build capacity for humanitarian response at the national and sub-national level.
As a follow-up to the workshop, national trainings were conducted in the seven priority countries to further strengthen national capacities to response to humanitarian emergencies. By the end of 2011, each of the seven country coordination teams will have submitted their finalized national action plans for integrating sexual and reproductive health into national emergency preparedness plans. The second round of MISP capacity-building will begin in 2012, covering the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.
Sub-Regional Capacity Building for Humanitarian Response
Almaty Sub-regional Capacity Building Workshop
UNFPA has also conducted training in Almaty, Kazakhstan, focused on building the capacity of Central Asian Country Offices to respond to emergencies. Specifically, the training aimed to mainstream humanitarian response into UNFPA regional and country-level programming. Participants established Crisis Response Teams and addressed standard operating procedures for humanitarian response. In addition, facilitators highlighted the role of UNFPA in the region as a neutral coordinator between partners, as well as the comparative advantage of UNFPA to deliver programming for sexual and reproductive health services.
In line with UNFPA regionalization priorities, the Regional Office seeks to strengthen its role in supporting country-level programming, while transferring operational functions for humanitarian response to respective Country Offices by 2013.