June 8, 1999
Volume 1/ Number 4
Dear Friend and Colleague:
A controversial UNFPA document entitled “Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations” reveals some of the principles upon which the UNFPA’s “reproductive health” campaign within the Kosovar refugee camps is based. Naturally, servicing traumatized refugees — consisting mainly of traditional Muslims — with abortions, sterilizations and “morning after” pills raises health and safety concerns, but also concerns about human rights violations. As it turns out, the UNFPA is not implementing its guidelines according to letter. However the UNFPA has not erred on the side of caution either…
Steven W. Mosher
“Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations”: The UNFPA Violates its Own Field Manual
The United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) “reproductive health” campaign among the Kosovar refugees is being carried out in a way that violates the methods it laid out in its controversial field manual, published in 1998, called “Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations.”
Central to the UNFPA’s “reproductive health” campaign are distributions of “morning after” pills as a routine method of birth control, and manual vacuum aspirators (MVAs) to flush the contents of the uterus.
The UNFPA has betrayed itself, since its field manual states that “morning after” pills “should not be seen as a substitute for other contraceptive methods.”
The Population Research Institute has documented UNFPA admissions that shipments of “morning after” pills, first lauded by the UNFPA as a remedy to ethnic rape, would be useless because rape victims arrive within the camps after 72 hours of the fact. UNFPA also confirmed its intent to distribute “morning after” pills widely among the refugees as a routine form of birth control (PRI Review, April / May 1999, 13).
The document also states that abortion by manual vacuum aspirators (MVAs – including in the UNFPA “reproductive health” kits which have been sent to Kosovo) “should be undertaken by qualified and supervised staff in appropriate and safe conditions….”
The UNFPA has again, here, betrayed its own guidelines.
The UNFPA, also, in the name of implementing its guidelines, will “market” the availability of emergency contraception and other family planning services through an aggressive campaign within the refugee communities (PRI Review, April / May 1999, 13).
Meanwhile, media reports from Albania have confirmed the occurrence of sexual violence and sex-for-food exploitation within the camps. Are there no concerns that widespread availability of “emergency contraception” facilitates the sexual exploitation of refugee women?
Moreover, a PRI investigation found MVAs included in the “reproductive health” kits sent by the UNFPA to the refugees (PRI Review, April / May 1999, 1). The UNFPA, in conjunction with the local affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the PRI report confirmed, is providing transportation to refugee women from dangerous camps to the squalor of ad hoc “family planning centers” to undergo abortion procedures.
Concerns of violations of informed consent aside, complications of this “bad medicine” include hemorrhage, infection, the spread of STDs and HIV, and perforation of a woman’s uterus or internal organs.
“Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations” received fierce opposition from many participating members of the international community during the final drafting stages. Participating members questioned how human rights violations could be avoided even if the field manual was followed to the letter. How much more likely are human rights violations when the UNFPA ignores its own guidelines?
As the hobbled mass of refugees turns toward home, what host of human rights abuses have they suffered in their refugee situation? The media needs to appraise the West of potential human rights violations being committed or occasioned by the UNFPA in the name of providing “reproductive health in refugee situations.”