Letter from Tewodros Melesse: "Ask for sexual and reproductive rights for refugees and migrants"

woman with a baby in IPPF humanitarian camp

Dear friends, colleagues and partners,

As September 19th, the date for United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants, approaches we can’t help but to continue to be overwhelmed by the rising number of refugees across the globe and their growing needs. It has become clear that the global community will have to take strong, committed and focused actions in order to ensure that the needs of those vulnerable populations are met.

Children, the elderly and women are the ones most at risk in these perilous situations. We need to ensure that their specific needs do not go unnoticed. During this year’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, UN Member States, civil society and other stakeholders made commitments to increase their support in emergency situations. The Summit on Refugees and Migrants presents another unique opportunity for Member States to show resilient support.

In the final draft of the Summit’s outcome document great strides were made in ensuring women’s rights and needs were addressed. Through strong advocacy efforts from IPPF UN Liaison Office, United Nations agencies and strong Member State commitment we were able to secure language that is a great step forward in access to sexual and reproductive health services. Specifically, thanks to our work, the declaration promises to:

“…ensure that our responses to large movements of refugees and migrants mainstream a gender perspective, promote gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and fully respect and protect the human rights of women and girls. We will combat sexual and gender-based violence to the greatest extent possible. We will provide access to sexual and reproductive health-care services...”

The necessity for sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian situations is critical. We, therefore, ask you to include in your national statements during the Summit on Refugees and Migrants Summit, the unequivocal requirement for the sexual and reproductive rights of refugee and migrant women to be fulfilled and that sexual and reproductive health services be systematically included in the refugee crisis response.

I thank you in advance for the attention given to this very important matter and hope to count on you to support this key action. Together, we can make a difference in women’s lives, and bring to those that have lost everything a little bit of hope for the future.


Yours Sincerely,

Tewodros Melesse