While Afghan women are in the midst of a refugee health crisis that threatens the lives of millions, the Vatican has criticized efforts by the United Nations to provide sound healthcare information and services. At issue is the UN Inter-Agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations which the Holy See offices condemn because it encourages healthcare workers to provide information on emergency contraception and sterilization to women who are at high-risk for rape and maternal death. The Vatican also criticized the manual for taking a “nonjudgmental” approach to extramarital sex and homosexuality.
Kris Janowski, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner of Refugees, defended the manual. “Basically we are telling our people in the field they need to give options to those exposed to rape and AIDS,” said Janowski. “We cannot impose a moral solution. We’re just trying to save lives and protect people, trying to make their lives less miserable.” Afghans have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality as well as child and infant mortality in the world. According to U.N. agencies, refugee women are also more susceptible to rape and other types of sexual violence which can lead to even higher mortality rates, an increase in the spread of sexual transmitted diseases, and an increase in unsafe abortions.
The Feminist Majority is leading a massive campaign to increase humanitarian aid to Afghan refugees, the majority of which are women and children. To find out how you can help, log on to www.HelpAfghanWomen.com.
LEARN MORE Click here to read women’s narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.