An Open Letter to Organisers of the London Summit on Family Planning

The Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises congratulates the United Kingdom (UK) Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates) – in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), national governments, donors, civil society and faith-based organisations, the private sector, the research community, and others—on the London Family Planning Summit and welcomes the critical opportunity it represents for crisis-affected women everywhere.

As a collaborative network, led by a steering committee of 18 humanitarian and development agencies including UN, government and NGOs leading reproductive health work in crises, the IAWG commends these champions of family planning. We recognise the challenges of addressing this issue in unstable settings, yet also understand how critical it is to include crisis-affected populations within our commitments. Today we ask the UK Department for International Development (DfID) and Gates to further their leadership and advance efforts to bring family planning services to the more than 43 million people that have been displaced by conflict and natural disasters. This summit provides an immense opportunity for progress to be made in the developing world, through commitments made over the course of this week. Such steps can significantly advance global efforts to reduce maternal mortality and achieve swift progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals and improve the lives of women, men, adolescents, and children worldwide. We urge long-term commitments which will:

  • Close the funding gap for reproductive health between stable development settings and conflict-affected settings;[1]
  • Pledge long-term funding specifically to family planning programs and support a range of service delivery mechanisms appropriate for use in crisis-settings, including community based distribution, mobile clinics and integrated services;
  • Include crisis-affected populations in the Family Planning Summit objective of reaching 120 million women with Family Planning by 2020;
  • Include crisis-affected women and girls in reproductive health advocacy messages
  • Reach women, men, and adolescents affected by crises through quality family planning programs, offering an appropriate method mix;
  • Provide each woman and adolescent girl with an opportunity to decide if, when and how many children she wants to have, without coercion or discrimination.


We look forward to working with the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as they move forward to achieve the ambitious commitments set out in the Summit.


The IAWG Steering Committee

[1] Stable settings receive more than 50% more funding for RH per capita than do conflict affected settings.  Patel et al, 2009. Tracking Official Development Assistance for Reproductive Health in Conflict-Affected Countries- Plosmedicine doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000090.





Just 22 hours after the devastating 7.0-earthquake hit in January 2010, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team was on the ground in Haiti providing medical care to survivors. Our doctors and nurses were able to mobilise on an unparalleled scale to provide 24-hour emergency care to the acutely injured at the Hôpital de l’Université d’État d’Haiti (HUEH), a 700-bed hospital in Port-au-Prince. HUEH was badly damaged in the earthquake and many local health care professionals were missing. We were able to save thousands of lives through emergency and trauma care in the critical days following the earthquake.

At the height of emergency operations at the hospital, International Medical Corps treated approximately 1,000 patients per day. Our early entry also gave us the foundation to rapidly expand our operations to 15 mobile clinics throughout Haiti to provide critical services. Through the hospital and mobile and fixed clinics, International Medical Corps teams provided more than 110,000 patient consultations during the first year following the emergency.

When reports of acute diarrhoea emerged from the north of Haiti in October 2010, International Medical Corps doctors and nurses immediately deployed to the region providing emergency relief for the growing cholera crisis. Our network of rapidly constructed cholera treatment centres, supported by 820 community health volunteers to educate communities on how to prevent and identify cholera, meant that more than 30,000 cholera patients received life-saving treatment within the first year following the outbreak.



Libya ambulanceInternational Medical Corps was among the first organisations to enter Libya once the conflict began in February 2011, providing emergency medical care to casualties from the fighting and support to hospitals with medical staff and supplies. Among the first challenges our Emergency Response Teams encountered was a chronic shortage of nurses, as thousands of foreign nurses had fled the country. In partnership with the Jordan Health Aid Society, International Medical Corps immediately deployed volunteer nurses to health centres across eastern Libya moving them to towns and cities throughout the country as access permitted. Volunteer nurses trained the local counterparts while working alongside them.

At the country’s borders and within Libya, we supplied those displaced by the fighting with essential relief items, including blankets, bottled water and food. Recognising the danger posed by communicable diseases, our sanitation and hygiene specialists constructed latrines and washing stations in transit camps along the Tunisia borders.

Libya 5As the fighting went on International Medical Corps worked as close to the front line as possible, providing emergency treatment to those injured in the conflict, and medicines and supplies to besieged towns and cities. In Misurata, inaccessible by road, we evacuated nearly 500 injured civilians by boat. International Medical Corps’ mobile field hospitals treated the wounded from battles in Tripoli, the Western Mountains, Bani Walid, Sabha, Jufrah and Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.



Mali - villagerInternational Medical Corps mobilized an emergency response in Mali in January 2013 after rebel armed forces from the north began moving south, triggering French military intervention. In Timbuktu, which had spent months under the control of armed Islamist rebel our team were amongst the first international organisations to arrive and found pillaged clinics, missing medical personnel and damaged health infrastructure.

We immediately began supporting eight strategically targeted health clinics in remote areas around Timbuktu, where the Malian Ministry of Health has been unable to maintain adequate services to local communities. By providing medicines, training staff and recruiting qualified doctors and nurses, we can ensure local people will now have access to basic primary and secondary health care for the first time in months

Mali-Road-to-TimbuktuTrue to our mission to build self reliance, International Medical Corps is also already training community health workers to go out to local markets and spread essential hygiene, reproductive health and nutrition messages. We are also working to rehabilitate clinics damaged during the conflict, by building or repairing latrines, water systems, solar panel systems and other infrastructure repairs, enabling health workers to have stable and well-equipped facilities to help the people of Mali.


Basanti & Bishal's story

Basanti, a young mother of two in Nepal, returned home from fetching water for her family to find her 8-month old son Bishal had fallen into the open cooking fire. Basanti was in shock, but she wrapped her baby in blankets and ran for help. No one in their village or at the local health post knew what to do so she had to travel more than six hours by bus to seek emergency care at the closest hospital. The district hospital could only stabilize Bishal and wasn’t able to treat his wounds properly. As a result, his little fingers contracted into a fist as the burned skin contracted and “healed” over the coming year, making it impossible for him to use his hand. His cheek, lips and eyelid also contracted and tightened, threatening his vision.

After selling part of their farm to pay for transportation to Kathmandu, Basanti sought further treatment for her baby. However, two hospitals in the nation’s capital could not help either. Adding to Basanti’s struggles, her husband abandoned the family, leaving her alone to care for Bishal and his four-year-old sister.

Thankfully, Basanti heard about the surgical care available through ReSurge International, our trusted partner with a 43-year history of serving burn victims. Dr. Rai, ReSurge’s Outreach Director in Nepal, and his team restored Bishal’s eyelid and his hand will soon be surgically repaired as well.

Even though it took more than a year for him to get appropriate treatment, Bishal is one of the lucky ones. Thousands of children never get the care they need to live a normal life after a disabling burn.


Our impact through training in 2012



Our Mother Care Group Approach


Read more about our community based approach to prevention and treatment of malnutrition