Women living in the world's third-largest refugee camp are at risk of losing their access to contraception and prenatal care in just a few weeks if nothing is done, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns.
More than 93,000 refugees have fled civil unrest and violence in Burundi
and are living in Tanzania’s Nyarugusu Refugee Camp
, according to the IRC. On average, 200 asylum seekers per week have arrived at the camp. This increase in people fleeing Burundi has vaulted Nyarugusu "from the ninth to the third-largest refugee camp in just four months," according to the IRC.
Women risk losing access to birth control pills, IUDs, and other family planning methods. The IRC estimates that more than 23,000 women and girls living there are of reproductive age, and many have accessed the nonprofit group's clinic
. Preventing unplanned pregnancies is one of the few things refugee women and girls feel they can control, Ashley Wolfington, IRC's senior advisor for reproductive health, told Refinery29.
"Women want to take control of their lives by using contraceptive services when they are in crisis," Wolfington said. "Some have experienced gender-based violence while they are fleeing. They have been in very harrowing or unsafe circumstances. We are trying to help women take control when everything around them is in chaos."
IRC workers said when some women are relocated to different refugee camps later this week, pregnant women will be forced to travel 18 miles to the nearest healthcare facility to deliver their babies.
"We would like to know where to go for family planning services. Many of us don’t have relatives to help us. My husband died at the border as we were running away," one young woman (right) told IRC workers.
"If women are pregnant and they are in a refugee camp, it can be quite risky. Many have had husbands die or stay behind and they are taking care of their children. If they have a complication, that can put the whole family at risk," Wolfington said. "If they can have the smallest thread of a lifeline to someone who can give them care, tell them that their pregnancy is healthy, or help them access contraception, that's important."
Wolfington said that while headlines about while people fleeing violence in the Middle East and North Africa for Europe have made headlines recently, refugees around the world need help.
"A lot of the images people have been seeing over the summer in Greece and Europe have a lot of similarities to what is happening in Tanzania. We are seeing entire families fleeing," Wolfington said. "These are mothers who either have young children or babies; and at the top of their minds is the same thing on the top of the minds of mothers everywhere. They are doing everything in their power to make sure their children are safe."
Read the stories these women and men shared with IRC here on Refinery29.