Integrating sexual and reproductive health into health system strengthening in humanitarian settings: a planning workshop toolkit to transition from minimum to comprehensive services in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, and Yemen

Confl Health. 2020 Nov 25:14:81. doi: 10.1186/s13031-020-00326-5. eCollection 2020.


Background: Planning to transition from the Minimum Initial Service Package for Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) toward comprehensive SRH services has been a challenge in humanitarian settings. To bridge this gap, a workshop toolkit for SRH coordinators was designed to support effective planning. This article aims to describe the toolkit design, piloting, and final product.

Methods: Anchored in the Health System Building Blocks Framework of the World Health Organization, the design entailed two complementary and participatory strategies. First, a collaborative design phase with iterative feedback loops involved global partners with extensive operational experience in the initial toolkit conception. The second phase engaged stakeholders from three major humanitarian crises to participate in pilot workshops to contextualize, evaluate, validate, and improve the toolkit using qualitative interviews and end-of-workshop evaluations. The aim of this two-phase design process was to finalize a planning toolkit that can be utilized in and adapted to diverse humanitarian contexts, and efficiently and effectively meet its objectives. Pilots occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the Kasai region crisis, Bangladesh for the Rohingya humanitarian response in Cox's Bazar, and Yemen for selected Governorates.

Results: Results suggest that the toolkit enabled facilitators to foster a systematic, participatory, interactive, and inclusive planning process among participants over a two-day workshop. The approach was reportedly effective and time-efficient in producing a joint work plan. The main planning priorities cutting across settings included improving comprehensive SRH services in general, healthcare workforce strengthening, such as midwifery capacity development, increasing community mobilization and engagement, focusing on adolescent SRH, and enhancing maternal and newborn health services in terms of quality, coverage, and referral pathways. Recommendations for improvement included a dedicated and adequately anticipated pre-workshop preparation to gather relevant data, encouraging participants to undertake preliminary study to equalize knowledge to partake fully in the workshop, and enlisting participants from marginalized and underserved populations.

Conclusion: Collaborative design and piloting efforts resulted in a workshop toolkit that could support a systematic and efficient identification of priority activities and services related to comprehensive SRH. Such priorities could help meet the SRH needs of communities emerging from acute humanitarian situations while strengthening the overall health system.

Keywords: Comprehensive services; Health system strengthening; Minimum initial service package (MISP) for sexual and reproductive health; Participatory; Planning toolkit.