Assessing the reproductive health needs of Burmese refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Abortion, Contraception
Awarded 2016
Small Research Grants
Kate MacFarlane, MSc
Cambridge Reproductive Health Consultants

Objectives: This project explored the reproductive health of Rohingya women and girls in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and documented their experiences accessing sexual and reproductive health services in Malaysia. Areas of interest included contraception, abortion, sexual and gender-based violence, and adolescent reproductive health. We also interviewed key informants about Rohingya women’s experiences in Malaysia and mapped the availability of health services. Methods: In 2016, we conducted focus group discussions with Rohingya women and girls and semi-structured interviews with key informants. We transcribed and translated all discussions and interviews and conducted content and thematic analysis of the data. We used a multi-phased analytic approach that included both deductive and inductive techniques. Results: We spoke with a total of 38 Rohingya women and girls and 13 key informants. About half of women and girls were not documented with the UNHCR. Women felt that their overall reproductive health status was poor and reported difficulty in obtaining reproductive health services. Women described pregnancy and delivery in Malaysia as challenging due to prohibitive costs and concerns about being arrested postpartum. Most women were highly motivated to use modern methods of contraception and typically used oral contraceptive pills or injectables. Knowledge about and access to safe and legal abortion was extremely limited. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that there are significant unmet sexual and reproductive health needs among the Rohingya community residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As the Rohingya refugee crisis continues to escalate, efforts to expand sexual and reproductive health education and service delivery for this particular community are vital.