Over 42,000 people fled their homes every single day in 2014, the UN refugee agency UNHCR reported in the release of their annual report last week.
The number of displaced people in the world today has hit an all time high due to war and conflict, amounting to almost 60 million people – half of them children. If all these people formed a country, it would be the 24th largest and more than 6 times the population of my home country, Sweden.
So, what actually happens to people who have been forced from their homes and away from their every-day lives?
Most are displaced within their country or in neighboring countries, where life is on hold at a refugee camp – without access to basic necessities and activities, like jobs and education. The majority of refugees don’t find a safe haven in Europe or other western countries, and only a small number of people have the option to take the risky, if not deadly, journey across the Mediterranean.
In the example of Syria, Hans Rosling explains it well:
Last year Save the Children reported that the average refugee situation lasts 17 years and now UNHCR says that at this rate the global situation is likely to worsen.
In situations of war, conflicts, persecution and even natural disasters women and girls pay an even higher price. Sexual violence is used as a tactical weapon of war and in refugee camps women and girls face a high risk of rape, other forms of sexual violence and early marriage. Furthermore, the lack of infrastructure and health systems leave refugee populations without access to basic health care.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women cannot put their and their babies’ lives on hold. Life is just beginning and these women have an incredible need for maternal and newborn health services, as well as a nutritious diet for themselves and their babies.
UNFPA estimates that almost half a million Syrian women are pregnant. In Nepal, Save the Children estimates that 21,000 women were in their third trimester when the earthquake struck. Being in the last stages of pregnancy is tough, physically and psychologically. As a woman your body is the lifeline for a new human being and you are the one foremost responsible for the well-being of your little one – but without access to basic services and support this is almost impossible!
The number of displaced people is now at a record high, and so is the number of expecting and new mothers who have been forced away from what they had hoped would be a safe place for their new babies.
As we urge our leaders to take critical action to address wars, conflicts and natural disasters, we must ensure that maternal, newborn and adolescent health is a crucial and central part of their response.
Learn more and join the conversation next Tuesday as we discuss how to respond to women’s and children’s health needs in crisis situations with partners Save the Children, Women LEAD Nepal and Edna Adan Hospital Foundation.
Here are a few things you can do today
- Support the work on the ground in Nepal and Syria through Save the Children
- Buy emergency birth kits through UNFPA
- Learn more by reading UNHCR’s Annual Report
- Raise awareness by using the share buttons below
Featured Image Photo Credit: Gates Foundation on Flickr