Young people including adolescents face barriers to healthcare and increased risk of poor sexual and reproductive health (SRH), which are exacerbated in humanitarian settings. Our systematic review assessed the evidence on SRH interventions for young people including adolescents in humanitarian settings, strategies to increase their utilisation and their effects on health outcomes.
We searched peer-reviewed and grey literature published between 1980 and 2018 using search terms for adolescents, young people, humanitarian crises in low- and middle- income countries and SRH in four databases and relevant websites. We analysed literature matching pre-defined inclusion criteria using narrative synthesis methodology, and appraised for study quality.
We found nine peer-reviewed and five grey literature articles, the majority published post-2012 and mostly high- or medium-quality, focusing on prevention of unintended pregnancies, HIV/STIs, maternal and newborn health, and prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. We found no studies on prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), safe abortion, post-abortion care, urogenital fistulae or female genital mutilation (FGM). Thirteen studies reported positive effects on outcomes (majority were positive changes in knowledge and attitudes), seven studies reported no effects in some SRH outcomes measured, and one study reported a decrease in number of new and repeat FP clients. Strategies to increase intervention utilisation by young people include adolescent-friendly spaces, peer workers, school-based activities, and involving young people.
Young people, including adolescents, continue to be a neglected group in humanitarian settings. While we found evidence that some SRH interventions for young people are being implemented, there are insufficient details of specific intervention components and outcome measurements to adequately map these interventions. Efforts to address this key population’s SRH needs and evaluate effective implementation modalities require urgent attention. Specifically, greater quantity and quality of evidence on programmatic implementation of these interventions are needed, especially for comprehensive abortion care, PMTCT, urogenital fistulae, FGM, and for LGBTQI populations and persons with disabilities. If embedded within a broader SRH programme, implementers and/or researchers should include young people-specific strategies, targeted at both girls/women and boys/men where appropriate, and collect age- and sex-disaggregated data to help ascertain if this population’s diverse needs are being addressed.
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