Some 128,000 Georgians were displaced following the Georgia-Russia conflict that began in August.
Louise Lee-Jones is a Worldfocus contributing blogger and guest columnist for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. She reports from Georgia about the challenges facing Georgian youth and women, who have fled their homes following the recent fighting. On the Pulitzer Center’s blog, “Untold Stories,” she writes about the Georgian women left without adequate reproductive health services.
The Forgotten Women of Gori
Irene smiles shyly as she waits to be seen in the small tent that is the reproductive health clinic in Gori Tent City. She is 21 years old and is nine months pregnant with her first baby. Her baby is due in the next few weeks and she wants to have it in the hospital when the time comes. Fortunately, the hospital in Gori wasn’t destroyed unlike many others in the areas to the north of the city.
Irene fled her home with her husband and his family when the fighting between the Russian and Georgian forces came too close for comfort. Fearing for their lives, they fled first to her husband’s sister’s house and then to a camp for displaced people. The camp is near their home in Gori and they’ve been living there for the last month. “We are all staying together in one tent, with other people” says Irene. “There are eight of us in one tent. It is ok, but noisy and there’s no privacy,” she adds.
I’ve come to Georgia as part of a fact finding delegation from the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development to assess the reproductive health needs of the displaced people in the region.
Most of the delegation is made up of MPs and MEPs but I am representing Marie Stopes International (MSI).
So why was MSI included? MSI, together with Columbia University, coordinates a multi agency, multi country programme which brings together 10 leading service delivery and advocacy organisations to scale up comprehensive reproductive health services in crisis settings. The programme, known as the Reproductive Health Access, Information and Services in Emergencies (RAISE) Initiative, helps refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and returnees in crisis areas such as Colombia, Northern Uganda, and Darfur in Sudan.
The reproductive health needs of displaced people are often neglected, even once the immediate priorities have been addressed. Yet failure to address these needs at the outset of an emergency stores up problems for women and the broader population.
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Photo courtesy of MSI/RAISE/Louise Lee-Jones.