Providing Family Planning Services to Refugees

The 1951 Refugee Convention defines what constitutes a refugee: “A refugee, according to the Convention, is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion” (UNHCR).

According to the UNHCR, “By the end of 2022, 108.4 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. This includes: 35.3 million refugees, 62.5 million internally displaced people, 5.4 million asylum seekers, 5.2 million people in need of international protection, a majority from Venezuela” (UNHCR).

As the UNHCR addresses the complex challenges presented by the refugees on a global scale, it is important to recognize the specific reproductive health needs of refugees and explore avenues for ensuring access to essential and culturally sensitive services. Refugees, irrespective of their displacement status, face unique reproductive health challenges due to their precarious circumstances. Limited access to quality healthcare, including family planning services, can have detrimental effects on the well-being of refugees, particularly women, and girls. Unplanned pregnancies and high fertility rates among refugee populations pose risks to maternal and child health, exacerbating the vulnerability of this already marginalized group.

For example, many refugees are unaware of accessible and safe contraception practices. Among 15-19 year old refugees only 37.9% of them were aware of, used, or currently using condoms as a family planning practice, compared to 59.5% of refugee women between the ages of 20-49 (Tanabe). In addition to age, education level indicates whether women are aware of accessible contraceptives. 67.3% of women who ever attended any educational facility were aware of condoms as a contraceptive, compared to 45.9% of women who had never attended school (Tanabe). Access to sexual education itself, then, may help to increase refugee’s knowledge of the family planning services at their disposal.

We must also critically evaluate the capacity and resources available to adequately meet the demand for these services. Limited funding, inadequate infrastructure, and a shortage of trained healthcare providers can hinder the provision of accessible and sustainable family planning services. Collaborative partnerships with member states, international organizations, NGOs, and local communities should be fostered to address these challenges and ensure the effective delivery of services.

In conclusion, the provision of comprehensive family planning services for refugees demands critical reflection, collaboration, and innovative approaches. While acknowledging the importance of addressing the reproductive health needs of refugees, we must navigate the complexities and challenges associated with implementation. Your task, as a member of the UNHCR will be to ensure that refugees have access to essential and inclusive family planning services that respect their rights and contribute to their overall well-being.

Questions to consider:
  1. What is your country’s position on reproductive rights?
  2. Does your country have a large refugee population?
  3. What has your country done to address this ongoing concern amongst its own populations?
  4. Does your country have any moral objections to family planning services?
  5. Should the UN be more active in matters of reproductive rights?
  6. Does your country have a strong connection to any organized religion that may influence its views on family planning?

Resources to Consider: “Family Planning Helps Refugees Regain Control of Their Lives | International Rescue Committee (IRC).”, 13 Apr. 2017, . Accessed 6 Aug. 2023.

UNHCR Global Website. “Sexual and Reproductive Health.” UNHCR Global, 6 Aug. 2023, . Accessed 6 Aug. 2023.

Works Cited “Family Planning Helps Refugees Regain Control of Their Lives | International Rescue Committee (IRC).”, 13 Apr. 2017, . Accessed 6 Aug. 2023.


Tanabe, Mihoko, et al. “Family Planning in Refugee Settings: Findings and Actions from a Multi-Country Study.” Conflict and Health, vol. 11, no. 1, 31 May 2017, .

UN Bangladesh. “Launch of the Family Planning Strategy for Rohingya Refugees | United Nations in Bangladesh.”, 16 Feb. 2023, . Accessed 6 Aug. 2023.

UNHCR Global Website. “Sexual and Reproductive Health.” UNHCR Global, 6 Aug. 2023, . Accessed 6 Aug. 2023.

UNHCR Global Website. “What Is a Refugee?” UNHCR,,group%2C%20or%20political%20opinion .

USA for UNHCR. “Refugee Statistics | USA for UNHCR.”, . Accessed 6 Aug. 2023.