Essential Health Needs of Women Often Neglected in Assistance after Natural Disasters, Conflicts

8 December 2015

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 7 December 2015 --The health needs of women and adolescents are too often neglected in humanitarian response to natural disasters and conflicts around the world, even though whether women and girls live or die in a crisis often depends on access to basic sexual and reproductive health services, says a new report released by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

In Mongolia, as the winter months approach, the risks of dzud and other extreme weather events are imminent and immediate, particularly for rural and herding communities. Mongolia is also at high risk of earthquakes and floods, with potentially devastating effects across Mongolia and particularly among the urban and peri-urban populations concentrated in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

“The health and rights of women and adolescents should not be treated like an afterthought in humanitarian response,” says UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “For the pregnant woman who is about to deliver, or the adolescent girl who survived sexual violence, life-saving services are as vital as water, food and shelter.”

UNFPA Representative Naomi Kitahara explains “we must work together with the Mongolian government to ensure that the needs of women and adolescents can and will be met in the event of an emergency such as a dzud or earthquake. Preparedness is essential to rapid mobilization of essential and life-saving goods and services, particularly for the 868,000 Mongolian women of reproductive age.”

Without the usual protection of family and community, women and adolescents are more vulnerable to sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Sexual and reproductive health services, including basic needs for safe childbirth, family planning and reproductive health care are scarcest at the time they are needed most, The State of World Population says.

According to the UNFPA report, current funding structures are unable to protect all those in need. In 2015, UNFPA received less than half the funding it required to meet the essential sexual and reproductive health needs of women and adolescents, with shortfalls affecting many UNFPA countries, including Mongolia.

Because the demand for humanitarian assistance outpaces supply, a new approach is needed, with a new emphasis on prevention, preparedness and building resilience of nations, communities, institutions and individuals. A pathway to resilience is equitable, inclusive development that protects rights, including reproductive rights, the report concludes.

“The business-as-usual approach to humanitarian assistance will leave too many behind at a time when needs are so great,” Dr. Osotimehin says. “We need to do a much better job of helping the most vulnerable, especially adolescent girls. But we must also do a much better job of investing in a more stable world, capable of withstanding the storms ahead.”


UNFPA works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA Mongolia currently implements the 5th Country Programme 2012-2016, closely in line with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Mongolia.