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Recommendations for Contraceptive Care in Emergencies

Emergencies modify people's patterns of priorities and response; given a different set of stimuli, people tend to forget or suspend the use of protective measures such as contraceptives. Furthermore, the climate of emotional tension fosters physical closeness between people, increasing the vulnerability of women to sexual relations that are unwelcome, and unprotected against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Changes also occur in the way in which individual emotions and behavior are expressed, often manifested in frustration and anguish which, among other consequences, can spark acts of physical aggression that are sometimes manifested in sexual acts, chiefly against women.

Thus it is necessary to act swiftly and decisively to prevent unplanned, undesired, or even forced pregnancies.

The activities below should be included among the principal points to consider in preparing emergency response measures:

  • Identify current needs, conditions, and availability of contraceptive stocks by type and quantity; safe storage mechanisms; expiration dates; and resources for distribution to users. It is necessary to know if supplies are available in neighboring regions of the country which could be drawn on rapidly and sent to consumption points.
  • Include emergency contraceptives in the supplies to distribute. The interruption or suspension in the supply and regular use of contraceptive methods, and the increase in sexual violence incidents make it crucial that women have access to emergency contraceptives. As a starting point, it is recommended to estimate that 1% of women of childbearing age will require them.
  • Confirm the availability and distribution of latex condoms. The use of condoms should be promoted directly among both men and women in order to contribute effectively to the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, and to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Maintain the ongoing delivery of oral and injectable hormone-based contraceptives and barrier methods to users. It is important to review the physical condition of contraceptive supplies before distributing them.
  • Promote the use of injectable methods. During the emergency stage, the use of injectable contraceptives (preferably) is recommended, in view of the limited availability of water to clean and disinfect devices and medical equipment utilized for insertion of intrauterine devices, tubal ligations, and vasectomies.
  • Insofar as is possible, establish obstetric/gynecological health care services in the shelters and temporary refuges, with trained staff.
  • Conduct information and education sessions in the temporary shelters and refuges, and other public places, geared toward men and women of childbearing age, with regard to sexuality, sexual and reproductive rights, and shared responsibilities in the prevention of unwanted pregnancies.
  • Prepare and disseminate protection-driven messages directed to the general population on how to prevent health risks and obtain basic services relating thereto.
  • Ensure the availability, at all times, of educational supplies concerning the reproductive health actions that the population should carry out in emergencies so that, in the event of need, these can be drawn on for health promotion activities.
     

 

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