Meeting the specific health needs of women, men, girls and boys during DDR is essential both in terms of meeting their immediate needs as well as facilitating their longer-term reintegration. This is particularly true for victims of sexual-based violence (both males and females), who may be in need of trauma and counselling services, as well as for women who are pregnant, lactating or caring for young children. Because of the high level of sexual abuse suffered by women associated with armed forces and groups, they are especially vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS and pregnancy. It is also important to recognize men as potential victims of sexual violence.

Health services should be provided for the specific needs of women, men, girls and boys throughout the DDR process.

During demobilization: this may include access to safe delivery kits, sufficient clean water, supplemental feeding and access to healthcare facilities. Women and girls who have been abducted and/or suffered sexual assault during or after the conflict should be assisted by women who are trained in trauma management and offered counselling services, provided that these are culturally acceptable and appropriate.

During reintegration: providing adequate food, clean water, shelter, sanitation and primary health care (PHC) are priority activities in any conflict or post-conflict situation. These interventions help combat the major killers during and immediately after a humanitarian crisis, such as malnutrition, diarrhoeal diseases, measles, acute respiratory infections (ARI) and malaria (where prevalent). However, reproductive health (RH) issues are also crucial for the physical, mental and social well-being of any individual. As an integral part of PHC, RH care is important in overcoming such problems as:

  • Complications of pregnancy and delivery, which are leading causes of death and disease among refugee women of child-bearing age;
  • Malnutrition and epidemics, which can further diminish the physiological reserves of pregnant or lactating women, thus endangering their health and that of their child; and
  • An absence of law and order, commonly seen in conflict or post-conflict situation, which, together with men's loss of power and status, leads to an increased risk of sexual violence. Violence against women, rape, sexual abuse, involuntary prostitution, even physical assault during pregnancy have been found to be far more widespread than was previously acknowledged.