The Project

Our differences are the key,
as long as we trust each other
and share our expertise.

Network for the support of pregnant refugees

The “Fachdialognetz für schwangere, geflüchtete Frauen” (Expert-Dialogue for pregnant refugees) is a model project by the pro familia federal association. It is aimed at networking, exchange and cooperation among multidisciplinary professionals, volunteer initiatives and migrant organisations – e.g. from the public health system, obstetrics, psychosocial counselling and migrant services or youth services. The network's objective is to further develop skills in dialogue, for the protection and assumption of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Both public health and social work services as well as volunteer organisations offer various forms of support for pregnant refugees. It is helpful to connect and coordinate these offers and other stakeholders, to gain an overview over existing services and to pool competencies - in order to strengthen sexual and reproductive rights of pregnant refugees.

Building networks

pro familia1 is currently exploring ways of networks for expert dialogue for the support of pregnant refugees in eight German cities. Affiliated to the counselling centres of pro familia in Berlin, Bremen, Erfurt, Gießen, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Leipzig and Mainz, these expert information and networking points offer qualified help and support. Local coordinators and project management at the pro familia federal association not only seek to contribute to an improvement of support services for pregnant refugees, but also aim at evaluating what kind of support these women actually need.

Making knowledge accessible online

The “Expert-Dialogue” takes place in face-to-face conversations, at round tables and events and is complemented by an online knowledge and networking platform that plays a central role in the model project. With tools such as data bases for the various offers and experts, an interactive map of counselling services and a collection of documents with specialist texts and brochures, it provides stakeholders with some digital instruments of networking.


Improving support together

pro familia's experiences in pregnancy counselling have shown: Networking and cooperation between different professions contributes considerably to effective services for the strengthening of sexual and reproductive health and rights. In the case of expectant refugee mothers, such a network does not exist. pro familia strives to change that with the model project “Expert Dialogue for pregnant refugees “. The following steps will help to achieve this goal:

  • Connect stakeholders
  • Advance expertise
  • Gain knowledge

Connect stakeholders

Although there are already numerous initiatives and support projects for pregnant refugees, also for their health care, there is still a lack of concerted action. In such complex areas as psycho-social counselling and medical treatment of pregnant refugees there are many different stakeholders, like resident physicians, hospital staff, midwives, employees of counselling centres or of migration services, youth services and the public health services. This makes it so important to connect all of them. Otherwise many of the services may not be used.

Project Tasks:
The local coordinators of the “Expert-Dialogue” and the project management at the pro familia federal association

  • gather existing offers for pregnant refugees,
  • organise round tables and expert discussions,
  • cooperate closely with the organisations offering services for pregnant refugees and migrant women’s organisations.

Advance Expertise

Since there are already initiatives and services in refugee relief, the various stakeholders have specialised knowledge on how to treat and counsel expectant refugee mothers. Yet, this specialised knowledge is not available to all agents in the field or not to the same extent. Making this expert information available means tapping the greater potential to pool competencies.

Project Tasks:
The local coordinators of the “Epecialised-Dialogue” and the project management at the pro familia federal association

  • gather practical information for professionals,
  • compile information material for professionals,
  • make this material available online.

Gain knowledge

In order to offer effective services for sexual and reproductive health and rights, more knowledge is necessary on what precisely pregnant refugees want and need. But there is still a lack of scientific data on health conditions and provision of care to pregnant refugees in Germany. Until now, there are no empirical studies on the physical health condition of women in the asylum proceedings that would offer information on services required for pregnancy, birth, puerperal or nursing periods. The Expert-Dialogue by pro familia is aimed at securing additional knowledge for future services and necessary research.

Project Tasks:
The local coordinators of the “Expert-Dialogue” and the project management at the pro familia federal association

  • identify gaps in and need for research,
  • discuss with professionals and gather knowledge,
  • develop recommendations on the basis of experiences in the model project for medical treatment and psycho-social counselling of pregnant refugees.


The Situation of Pregnant Refugees

Being a refugee means increased health risks in addition to many other encumbrances. It is particularly difficult for pregnant refugees in Germany to use the necessary psychosocial and medical services. Although, according to international agreements on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), all people have the right to qualified and accessible services during pregnancy and around birth.

Flight as a health hazard for pregnant women

Currently, there is a lack of scientifically reliable data about health conditions and care provided to pregnant refugees in Germany. However, the few existing studies about health care for migrants without residence status in Germany showed: most frequently, women without residence status seek medical help and advice due to urogenital diseases or pregnancies. Experts in other countries that receive refugees, also report that pregnant refugees are considerably more vulnerable and disadvantaged in health issues compared to the overall population.

Pregnancy and flight are pressing issues

There are no precise figures on how many refugees come to Germany pregnant or become pregnant once they are here. However, international data shows clearly that health care for pregnant refugees is anything but a side issue.

  • A joint report of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) for example, underlines the high number of pregnant women among the people who fled to Europe between January and November 2015.
  • Another report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that – among Syrian refugees alone – almost half a million pregnant women were forced to flee or are faced with flight.
  • The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) points to the 6 to 14 per cent of all refugees who are in reproductive age and could become pregnant any time.

Consider special circumstances

Medical treatment and psychosocial counselling of pregnant refugees must be adapted to their special situation. For example, the circumstances under which they became pregnant may vary. Services must identify the different natures of burdens and needs of pregnant refugees and take them into account in all aspects of counselling, treatment, help and care.

Communicate the entitlement to good care

Since the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo 1994, professional support for mothers and children, especially during pregnancy and birth, is a recognised human right of women worldwide. The model project “Fachdialognetz” (Expert-Dialogue) by pro familia wants to contribute to strengthen this very right in the provision of health care and psychosocial counselling.

International reports and documents can also be found
in our media library.

Based on rights

Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights

The right to quality information and counselling on sexual and reproductive health and rights is an individual human right for pro familia and its global parent organisation International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). The “Fachdialognetz” (Expert-Dialogue) is also committed to this principle.

Maternal health as national and international consensus

“All women have the right to appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and post-natal health care, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation”. For pro familia this is an essential commitment from the IPPF Charter on Sexual and Reproductive Rights and can also be found in the German development policy. That policy is based on the action programme by the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo 1994. It marks the turning point in development and family policy, replacing the dominant population-centred approach with one based on the needs and rights of women and men. The broad approach on reproductive health also incorporated maternal health.

From the Council of Europe to the World Health Organisation

There are other major international agreements and documents by communities of states which integrated these principles in their work programmes, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, equality between men and women and the reduction of child mortality and the improvement of maternal health:

  • The resolutions of the Cairo conference (ICPD – International Conference on Population and Development) have been reaffirmed and broadened at the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) and the ICPD-follow-up conferences (1999 and 2004).
  • Improvement of maternal health is also one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and is integrated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) of the United Nations.
  • Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Council of Europe refer to these resolutions in their work. 

These documents and resolutions can also be found
in our media library.


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