Collaborating for Improved Sexual and Reproductive Health for Adolescent Refugees and Migrants Worldwide

2 April, 2024


By Zohra S Lassi and Salima Meherali

About the Authors

Dr Zohra Lassi (PhD) is an Associate Professor and NHMRC Emerging Leader-2 (EL2) Fellow at the Robinson Research Institute and the School of Public Health of the University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

Dr. Salima Meherali (PhD) is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta.

Global migration trends have been increasing over the years. Several factors are driving this trend, including economic opportunities, political instability, conflict, environmental changes, and globalisation. Adolescent refugees and migrants face a myriad of challenges and vulnerabilities that can significantly affect their well-being; and in today’s interconnected world, the challenges faced by adolescent refugees and migrants extend far beyond the borders of any one nation [1]. Whether it’s navigating legal complexities, adapting to new cultures, or simply finding a sense of belonging, their journeys are marked by resilience and shared experiences. Navigating the intricacies inherent in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) adds another layer of difficulty to their already challenging journeys. However, by recognising the universal nature of these challenges and fostering collaborative efforts among nations, we can address the SRHR needs of these vulnerable populations more effectively.

Universal challenges in SRHR for adolescent refugees and migrants: Adolescence is a critical period marked by significant physical, emotional and psychosocial changes [2]. For adolescents from migrant and refugee backgrounds, this journey is often compounded by the challenges of displacement and resettlement. Despite the diversity of their experiences, these young people share common struggles that go beyond borders, particularly in the scope of SRHR.

Adolescents from refugee and migrant backgrounds face numerous obstacles in accessing SRHR services and information. Language barriers, cultural differences, lack of knowledge about available resources, and unfamiliarity with healthcare systems, hinder their ability to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive well-being. Additionally, they may encounter stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence, exacerbating their vulnerability [3]. These challenges, from adjusting to unfamiliar cultural norms to grappling with language barriers, discrimination, and social exclusion impede their sense of well-being and belonging. Many also carry the burden of trauma and loss resulting from displacement, further complicating their journey towards self-discovery and identity formation [4]. These experiences have profound effects not only on SRHR but on their physical and mental health as well.

Collaboration among nations is undeniably imperative for effectively addressing the SRH needs of adolescent refugees and migrants. By adopting a synergistic approach, countries can pool their resources and expertise to formulate comprehensive solutions that adequately tackle the unique challenges faced by these populations.

Leadership and implementation of such policies benefit greatly from the involvement of a wide array of stakeholders. International organisations such as World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), among others, can provide technical assistance and coordination. Collaboration with local authorities, community leaders, and civil society organisations is essential to ensure the effective implementation of these policies at the grassroots levels. Nevertheless, collaboration faces challenges, particularly in regions affected by political instability and conflict, which are the major drivers of migration. Overcoming these challenges necessitates the adoption of innovative approaches and engagement with diverse actors, including peacebuilding organizations. Establishing partnerships between governments, humanitarian agencies, and local communities becomes imperative to comprehensively address SRHR needs in these contexts.

Toward a more inclusive and equitable future: The SRHR needs of adolescent refugees and migrants are complex and multifaceted, but they are not difficult to address. By recognising the universality of these challenges and fostering collaborative efforts among nations, we can create a more inclusive and equitable future for all young people. Let us join hands and work towards a world where every adolescent, regardless of their background, has access to the information and services they need to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. Together, we can build a brighter and healthier future for generations to come.


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