Collecting Data on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings Lab

What are the data problems that this Lab is working to solve? 

Currently, the global forcibly displaced population exceeds 65 million people, with one in four being a woman or girl of reproductive age. They are at serious risk of death or disability due to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) complications, including: unsafe abortion, a major contributor to maternal death and disability in humanitarian contexts; forced marriage; and, sexual violence. They are also at an elevated risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

The lack of data on SRH in humanitarian settings is a critical global issue. This data problem presents challenges for effective resource allocation and timely service delivery, thereby impacting the health outcomes of extraordinarily vulnerable populations, especially women and girls. 

Key data issues: 

  • Data gaps: Consistent, reliable and rigorously collected data on SRH in humanitarian settings is sparse across the globe. This gap is even more pronounced when the SRH issue is politicized, such as with abortion data.
  • Low data quality: The limited data that is available is often inconsistent, producing highly variable content and quality. Limited data and its poor availability also complicates the measurement of the impact of interventions, including life-saving interventions such as abortion, that take place during emergencies.
  • Missing or inaccessible data: Currently, it is unclear what happens to SRH data that is collected in conflict settings, and whether the data is being used or can be used to benefit current or future humanitarian programming efforts.

How are partners navigating this innovation? 

  • Leveraging a renewed global dialogue: In 2018, the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG) released an updated edition of their Inter-Agency Field Manual and Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings, providing explicit guidelines to data collection and monitoring and evaluation at different stages of an emergency. This project will leverage the release of an updated manual and the rekindled discussions it has brought forth. The team will dedicate its efforts to improving data collection on SRH in humanitarian settings and the development of indicators.
  • Strengthening Capacity: Building on established partnerships, this initiative will strengthen the capacity of SRH research in Canada, as well as train and mobilize resources for SRH teams in humanitarian settings to help improve their data collection processes.
  • Creating generalizable approaches for data collection in humanitarian settings: This initiative spans six countries and will develop an approach and tools for collecting data that can be successfully replicated across different humanitarian settings. The tools will be designed to be more broadly used, as well as to facilitate expansion and promote adherence to global guidelines. 
  • Embracing Diversity in Context: This initiative will apply a broader multi-country (6) assessment approach to collect data and develop tools which can be successfully replicated across all humanitarian settings. Despite diversity in humanitarian context, the tools will be enabled to facilitate expansion, support scale-up and promote adherence to global guidelines. 


Download the May 2020 Status Update


Webinar: Tracking Progress in Access to Safe Abortion in Humanitarian Settings 

Partners from the University of Ottawa and the National Abortion Federation Canada discuss how they are tackling challenges amid evolving advocacy and funder priorities and working in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Interagency Working Group for Reproductive Health in Crisis Settings and various local partners across six countries to address the need for critical SRH data.



Lead partners:

university of ottawa


Global partners:

Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (USA /Global)

Department of Reproductive Health Research, World Health Organization

What does each partner offer?

University of Ottawa 

  • Responsible for overseeing and managing the research project from study design, implementation, and dissemination.
  • Liaising with all project partners, and leveraging experiences in the humanitarian sector and longstanding relationships with NAF Canada and IAWG to effectively complete proposed activities. 

National Abortion Federation (NAF) Canada

  • A national voice instrumental in effective stakeholder engagement that bridges domestic and international advocacy and cross-sectoral engagement (government, research, civil society partners) to amplify the need to incorporate abortion-related indicators into routine data collection.
  • Key actor in strategizing and implementing the project’s upcoming dissemination activities to translate evidence-based advocacy into policies that support safe abortion care training across Canada. 

Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG)

  • As a valuable network and convenor of experts, IAWG conducts global assessments and ensures the project and research plan is informed by most current global best practice. 
  • IAWG sub-working groups (Safe Abortion; Research and Data) have established global priorities for the project’s action and advocacy plans from the launch  to the critical mid-way point when the project’s configuration evolved (and expanded with the WHO). This work includes support for ongoing feedback on study protocols, findings, identifying implementation sites, toolkit development, and knowledge dissemination.

World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health Research

  • As a new partner since mid-project (Summer 2019), the WHO will support data collection expansion across 7 countries, and will convene global stakeholders to validate findings and strategies for improving data collection practice. The WHO partnership has advanced conversations with host countries to work with donors to incorporate routine abortion indicators within data collection systems.
  • Will develop evidence-informed tools to support local SRH humanitarian stakeholders and will incorporate tools and materials developed from this initiative to broader WHO global toolkit. 

Countries of Work:

  • Bangladesh
  • Jordan
  • Afghanistan
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Iraq
  • Somalia 

Program undertaken with the financial support of Global Affairs Canada.

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