During the initial stages of a conflict, those who are forced to flee are
particularly at risk—women, children and young people most of all.
The Women’s Refugee Commission has identified 10 pressing
needs that must be met during the first weeks and months of an emergency to
ensure the safety and well-being of refugees and internally displaced people
(IDPs)*. Some 43 million people are currently uprooted from their homes by
armed conflict and persecution. The following issues must be addressed until
the situation stabilizes:
- Keep refugees and IDPs
Ensure that they are settled in a secure location away from borders and
- Provide safe access to
including food, safe and appropriate cooking fuel, potable water,
sanitation and shelter.
- Communicate with the
people most affected and ensure their safety whether or not they have
legal status or official documents. Ensure every adult is
provided with individual documentation that allows him or her to access
- Provide life-saving
health care, including reproductive health care. Ensure there are
enough health workers and all necessary medicines and supplies to
prevent and respond to infectious diseases and other health needs.
Establish priority reproductive health services for women and girls.
- Prevent and respond to
sexual violence. Protect women and children from sexual violence by
ensuring safe access to food, cooking fuel, water, latrines and other
basic necessities. Offer medical services and psychosocial support to
survivors of sexual violence.
- Reduce the
transmission of HIV. Enforce use of infection control measures by health
workers; make condoms freely available; and ensure blood for transfusion
is safe by screening it for HIV and other blood-borne diseases.
- Prevent excess
maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity. Manage maternal and
newborn emergencies by establishing a referral system to health
facilities. Provide midwifery supplies to all health facilities and
clean delivery packages to visibly pregnant women.
- Identify vulnerable
individuals with specific needs, such as unaccompanied minors, child- or women-headed
households, pregnant women, victims of trafficking and persons with
disabilities. Secure their care and physical security. Monitor, report
and respond to violations against children.
- Provide education to
children and young people. Offer structure for children and restore hope and a
sense of normalcy in a safe, adult-supervised space. Teach basic
literacy and numeracy skills, and provide vocational training for young
- Provide economic
opportunities and preserve existing economic assets. Build on refugees’
skills, taking into account local market needs, to provide the best
chance for a sustainable income. Protect women and girls from sexual
exploitation by providing them with economic opportunities.
* A refugee has crossed an international border; an internally displaced
person (IDP) has fled from his or her home but is still in his or her own