“Babies do not wait conflicts to end before they are born”

Hatay_680The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Women and Reproductive Health branch of the Turkish Ministry of Health, the Hatay Regional Health Directorate, and the Migrant Health Office, and with the financial support of the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Organization (ECHO), organized a training session titled “Reproductive Health Methods Consulting” between 11-13 July 2018. The purpose of these training sessions was to educate Syrian healthcare personel who provide reproductive health consulting to Syrian refugees.

The opening speech of the training was made by Dr. Ümit Mutlu Tiryaki, Head of Hatay Public Health Services, who emphasized the value and necessity of these training sessions for ensuring high standards of service in reproductive health consulting.

Mehlika Ulular, trainer supervisor from The Ministry of Health, the General Directorate of Public Health, and the Ministry for Women and Reproductive Health, gave a speech before the training, stating “the concept of reproductive rights is an important topic. Infant and maternal mortality is a clear indicator for measuring any give country’s development level. I believe it is very important for these training sessions to take place, as they will surely enable us to renew our knowledge regarding reproductive health, and therefore provide higher standards of health care”.

Another speaker at the beginning of the conference was the UNFPA Turkey Reproductive Health Program Coordinator Dr. Gökhan Yıldırımkaya. In his speech, Dr. Yıldırımkaya emphasized how the training coincided with World Population Day, noting, “Today is 11 July, World Population Day. This year’s theme is ‘family planning is a human right’. Family planning is definitely not meant to be ‘population control’ – it is very important method for ensuing the health of mothers and babies. If a mother can give birth at the time she desires, and has the number of children that she desires in the intervals that she needs, she will have a healthier life. As healthcare professionals our aim is to provide reproductive health services to those in need”.

Dr. Yıldırımkaya emphasized also that in this three-day-long training, participants would learn from each other as well and surely share valuable information and experiences with each other. He emphasized that reproductive health is not a luxury in settings of conflict and disaster, stating ““babies do not wait conflicts to end before they are born””.

Family Planning Throughout the World

Dr. Yıldırımkaya also presented information regarding the use and outcomes of family planning throughout the world. 700 million women use family planning methods; however, 214 million women are still not able to access modern family planning methods. It is estimated that infant and maternal mortality rates would’ve dropped by 40% if modern family planning solutions were made available to the 214 million in need. According to Dr. Yildirimkaya, maternal deaths have dropped from 520,000 at the beginning of the century to 280,000 today. This has been primarily due to available modern family planning methods which have enabled couples to have children at times most appropriate for them, and effective postnatal care enabling mothers to maintain healthy lives after giving birth.

Syrian Women and Family Planning

Dr. Yıldırımkaya also provided information regarding family planning decisions made by Syrian women. 68% of Syrian women indicated that they want to keep two-year intervals between births, and 47% of them use family planning services, however only 33% have access to modern family planning methods.

Breastfeeding is not a means of family planning

Total of 21 medical personnel, 19 Syrian and 2 Turkish, attended the training to standardize sexual and reproductive health services provide at Migrant Health Centers.

One of the attendees, medical educator and nurse Özlem Çökmez, works at the UNFPA Turkey Women and Girls Safe Space in Antakya, which runs by the implementing partner The Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM) to provide primary health care to Syrian women and girls. Çökmez stated that the information provided through this training renews her knowledge, therefore enabling her to provide more effective healthcare services to Syrian refugees. She said that her work revolves around dispelling misinformation regarding reproductive health among Syrian Women. For example, she added, some Syrian women believed that breastfeeding is a means of family planning which is obviously not correct.

Trainee Leyla Yeşilova, who works with Syrian youth at a UNFPA youth center in collaboration with Community Volunteers Association emphasized that there was a misunderstanding among Syrian men that sexually transmitted diseases were the reproductive health issue faced only by Syrian women, it is not a health issue of Syrian men, Syrian men wrongly assume. Yeşilova noted that majority of the training attendees were male, and that therefore these attendees could educate their male patients and put an end to this misinformation.

When Syrian participants were asked what they expected to get out of training, they unanimously stated that they wanted to learn more about the modern family planning methods used in Turkey. One attendee stated that he wanted to better understand the health services provided to mothers and children. A Syrian doctor stated that he wanted to update his knowledge in the field of reproductive health, and added that he would share his learning with his colleagues. Another Syrian attendee said that he hoped to better understand the reproductive health services and family planning methods provided for free by the Turkish Ministry of Health.