Delivering clean water, providing emergency shelter, re-uniting children with their family members – these are the things people think of when they hear the words ‘emergency response’. However, there is one issue that is rarely prioritised or talked about: the provision of sexual and reproductive health, especially for adolescents and youth. So, on this day of love, I thought, for once – let’s talk about it!
In any disaster, the loss of security or protection provided by a family may place adolescents at risk. They may feel fearful, stressed or bored, any of which may increase their susceptibility to risky sexual behaviours. This makes young people in a disaster especially vulnerable to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Education is crucial
Save the Children believes that educating adolescents and youth about their sexual and reproductive rights is crucial to any emergency response, as this information will help them to protect themselves from sexual abuse and health risks.
And we don’t just talk about it – today, together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Department of Health, we launched a youth-friendly space (YFS) in Ormuk, an area that was devastated by typhoon Haiyan. This is a place where adolescents and young people can come to learn about the different reproductive health services available and get advice on responsible adulthood and building healthy relationships.
A safe space
It also provides them with a safe place to interact and, if necessary, to set up support groups. To really encourage youth to come and explore their new space, Save the Children held a Valentine’s Day concert featuring young local talents singing, performing theatre and playing games, while spreading messages of – safe! – love.
“This is a specific space that we can call our own safe haven,” says Michelle, 15. “Before, we didn’t even have a place to practice our cultural activities; now, we can do it here.”
Joshua, 16, agrees. “It is important for adolescents like me to know how we should care for ourselves,” he says. “This is what I appreciate about the programme—it gives us an opportunity to do that.”
“This project taught me a lot of things,” adds Jerlyn, 23. “Through the training given to us, I have learned more about gender and sexuality. I want to share this knowledge with others like me, so that all young people here will have proper guidance when it comes to reproductive health.”