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close this bookWork with Young Refugees to Ensure Their Reproductive Health and Well-being: It's Their Right and Our Duty (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) / Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR), 6 p.)


Take a Comprehensive Approach to Reproductive Health Work with Young Refugees

Comprehensive, adolescent- and youth-centered approaches to programming that recognize the links between sectors are critical to ensuring the protection, care and development of young refugees, including their reproductive health.


· Use rights-based and gender-sensitive approaches to programming.

· Identify and address multiple layers of vulnerability, including preexisting and emerging "risk factors, " such as trafficking or rising HIV/AIDS and poverty.

· Utilize "multi-sectoral" approaches that support links between health, protection and psychosocial services, as well as education and employment programs for young people.

· Recognize and work with young people as constructive resources, viewing them as solutions rather than problems.

· Involve refugee young people in actions to voice and address their concerns, and as possible, include young people from surrounding local communities.

· Use existing training and other material resources.

· Promote constructive community and family involvement with young people, identifying and incorporating positive cultural, economic, social and religious factors.

Determine Young People's Reproductive Health and Other Needs and Strengths

Assessments of the situation of young people must involve them directly. They must not only identify harmful factors and sources of their vulnerability, but also their capacities and protective resources in their community.


· Determine from health care workers, parents, adolescents and others the prevalence and causes of reproductive health problems, such as teen pregnancy, maternal mortality, STI's and genital mutilation.

· Identify the range and causes of harmful factors facing adolescents, including those that affect their reproductive health, such as the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, exposure to sexual violence and exploitation, poverty, lack of parents or family, etc.

· Find out if adolescents have access to emergency or other reproductive health care - professional or traditional - and if not, why not. If so, identify any gaps in the provision of and access to services for young people.

· Identify community-based or other interventions being undertaken specifically for adolescents and youth.

· Determine how all interventions for refugees affect young people, specifically their reproductive health.

· Find out how young people are currently surviving. What destructive and constructive activities are they engaged in?

· Assess young people's connections to their families and communities to identify key protective factors, such as the existence of supportive parents and teachers.

· Build these assets into programming efforts to address the needs identified, and work creatively to turn destructive coping or survival skills into constructive ones.

Identify and Involve Refugee Young People

Program interventions must fully account for young people among the population and respond to their locally defined roles and responsibilities. Young people need and have a right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Their participation must go beyond consultation to real leadership. Among other things, their personal decisions, or behavior, greatly affect their reproductive health.


· Identify adolescents and young adults among refugee populations, improving and using data collection methods that provide a complete picture of age and gender groupings.

· Ask refugee and host community young people and adults what marks girls' and boys' passage from childhood to adulthood and what their societal roles are, traditionally and currently.

· Incorporate these findings in your reproductive health and other work with young people.

· Assess current levels and the nature of young people's participation in community, family, NGO and other decision-making and activities.

· Don't just consult young people, involve them directly in decision-making at all levels and stages of policy formation and program design, implementation, monitoring and follow-up.

· Ensure adolescents and youth representing a range of young people's experiences and circumstances are invited, present and actively participating in your program planning meetings.

· Secure supportive adult guidance and reassurance for adolescents as they seek to increase their capacity for participation.

· Identify and work with community-based organizations, such as women's, youth, religious and other organizations in carrying out work with and for young people.

· Utilize peer-to-peer approaches, and include young people in all community outreach projects, including for health.

· Support young people's initiatives, such as youth centers, youth newspapers, radio shows, recreation, creative projects and advocacy groups, integrating health awareness and good practice.


UNHCR/A. Hollmann

Don't just consult young people, involve them directly in decision-making at all levels.

Ensure a Safe and Supportive Environment

Serious reproductive health problems for young people emerge due to lack of protection, especially from sexual violence committed against girls.


· Work with youth, UNHCR and all concerned partners such as NGOs, security forces and community members to identify, prevent and monitor young people's distinct protection concerns, paying particular attention to: abduction and forced recruitment; sexual violence and exploitation, including sexual slavery, prostitution and forced early marriage; domestic violence; adolescent-headed households; unaccompanied minors or separated children; and girls.

· Recognize that threats to young people, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, may come from international and local humanitarian staff, and establish and reinforce clear guidelines for interaction with adolescents.

· Set up confidential reporting systems for young people to report gender-based violence, and ensure that data is continuously monitored and used to inform protection and other services for survivors, as well as prevention efforts.

· Support community initiatives for the recovery of sexual violence survivors so that they are not stigmatized.

· Uphold and promote international and national legal standards and institutional policies to protect the rights of young people, promoting a climate of violence prevention.

· Train security, humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel, and sensitize adolescents and adults in gender and child rights issues.

· Promote gender equality and girls' and women's protection, in part through work with men and boys to raise awareness about women's and girls' needs and rights.

· Develop youth and community awareness about safety measures and constructive interaction with security staff.

· Demobilize and reintegrate all child soldiers, including girls.

· Secure youth and community support for young people's protection and psychosocial recovery, reinforcing local traditional values that serve to protect them.

· Provide young people with recreation and counseling opportunities to support their recovery, including games, dance, music, group and individual therapy, cleansing and other traditional rituals, drawing, drama, crafts and more.

Ensure Young People's Right to Education

Young people should receive information about reproductive health, sexuality and other issues at school or through other activities reaching out-of-school young people. Education also helps ensure the protection of all young people.


· Determine how many adolescents and youth are in school, including any differences in boys' and girls' attendance and the level of education required.

· Determine whether young people have access to information about reproductive health in or out of school.

· Identify social taboos or other barriers to young people obtaining education, including about reproductive health, and young people's suggestions for overcoming them.

· Ask young people what kinds of formal, non-formal, vocational or other education they are most interested in.

· Ensure the safety of girls and boys on their journey to and from school and their protection from sexual and other violence in school.

· Provide separate or private toilets at school and sanitary supplies for girls.

· Improve curricula and train teachers, youth and other community members to educate young people on reproductive and other health issues, including HIV/AIDS.

· Create opportunities for group discussions, confidential counseling or other creative activities for young people to consider reproductive health issues in schools or other places of learning and interaction.

Promote Young People's Livelihood

Livelihood opportunities are particularly important to preventing recruitment, prostitution, criminality and other protection and security problems that affect young people's reproductive health. They help build their self-esteem, provide hope and assist in their survival and psychological recovery during conflict.


· Identify what livelihood activities young people are currently involved in.

· Identify to what degree young people are economically responsible for themselves and their families.

· Provide young people skills training, apprenticeship and other education opportunities that lead to employment.

· Make credit and loans available to young people.

· Teach young people and parents basic business skills.

· Support income-generation activities and other livelihood interventions for young people, according to their interests and concrete community needs.

· Recognize and respond to the particular needs of girls, the disabled, heads of household, young mothers, orphans, former child soldiers, out-of-school adolescents and sexual violence survivors in targeting livelihood support.

Ensure Access to Health Care

Young people are often assumed to be relatively disease-free, yet they are very much at risk of common diseases and at great risk of STIs, including HIV/AIDS; early pregnancy; and alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse.


· Identify the number of adolescents and youth accessing community and institutional health services and the nature of their needs, and develop institutional protocols for collecting data disaggregated by age and sex.

· Assess the knowledge and practices of young people concerning reproductive and other health issues.

· Train adolescent and youth community outreach workers to identify needs and encourage young people's access to health services.

· Employ competent health staff who are friendly, welcoming and non-judgmental.

· Provide free or low-cost, quality health care.

· Prevent unsafe abortion with access to family planning, education, safe abortion (where legal) and post-abortion care.

· Make condoms available for the prevention of unwanted pregnancy and protection against STIs, including HIV/AIDS.

· Have flexible hours.

· Maintain comfortable facilities.

· Offer same-gender health providers.

· Be equipped to deal with issues of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence.

· Ensure confidentiality and privacy.

Work with Young Refugees to Ensure Their Reproductive Health and Well-being: It's Their Right and Our Duty, A Field Resource for Programming With and For Refugee Adolescents and Youth was created by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children under the auspices of the Inter-agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations and with support from the United Nations Foundation/United Nations Fund for International Partnerships.