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Assessing the reproductive health needs of Burmese refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kate MacFarlane, Cambridge Reproductive Health Consultants

Project abstract

The Rohingya minority of Myanmar has endured decades of oppression by the Burmese military junta and is one of the most persecuted populations in the world. In 2012, widespread violence prompted a mass exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar. Over 140,000 Burmese refugees, predominantly Rohingya, have now settled in Malaysia. Largely concentrated in Kuala Lumpur, this urban refugee community does not have recognized refugee status and is therefore especially vulnerable. A study of Burmese refugees in Kuala Lumpur published before the mass exodus found that contraceptive use is limited, and refugee women experience significant barriers accessing reproductive health services. However, to date no study has focused specifically on the needs of the Rohingya and women's abortion experiences have not been explored.

In partnership with the UNCHR-Malaysia, we will conduct a year-long multi-methods needs assessment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The project includes a review of existing data, key informant interviews, a service mapping exercise, and focus group discussions with Rohingya women. This project represents an important first step in determining avenues to improve reproductive health service delivery for Burmese refugees. We expect to publish two peer-reviewed articles and we will actively disseminate our results locally, through community engagement meetings and the distribution of a multi-lingual report with key findings and recommendations. Finally, we will work with UNHCR-Malaysia to develop a toolkit to help local NGOs enhance reproductive health service delivery. We expect that our findings will directly inform the activities of several NGOs and eventually impact thousands of refugees.

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