UN agencies team up on family planning for refugees in Thailand

News Stories, 15 January 2009

© UNHCR/R.Arnold
Family Planning: Two women refugees take their children for a stroll in one of the camps on the Thailand-Myanmar border.

BANGKOK, Thailand, January 15 (UNHCR) Refugees along Thailand's border with Myanmar will be able to continue to plan their families thanks to cooperation between UNHCR and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The two UN agencies are collaborating to fill gaps in reproductive health care for the 111,000 refugees from Myanmar living in nine camps. A quarter of the refugees are women of reproductive age.

As an initial step, UNFPA on Wednesday handed over contraceptives to meet the needs of 8,500 current users and 400 new users for six months to one year. The UN refugee agency's private aid agency partners will distribute the supplies and provide related counselling, education and hospital referrals in four camps: Umpium, Mae La, Mae Ra Ma Luang and Mae La Oon.

"People's needs for voluntary family planning information and services do not end when they become refugees," said UNHCR Deputy Regional Representative Giuseppe de Vincentis. "We consider family planning and reproductive health a basic human right and UNHCR is committed to ensuring that all refugee needs are met."

The two agencies are also talking with the Thai government about long-term cooperation to address the needs of adolescents, whose access to information and services has been limited by cultural taboos.

"It is our hope that further collaboration with UNHCR will improve the predictability, timeliness and effectiveness of reproductive health information and service provision for refugees here in Thailand," said Garimella Giridhar, UNFPA's representative in Thailand.

By Kitty McKinsey in Bangkok, Thailand