Newsletter December 2019

  ICRH Global Newsletter

December, 2019


Seasons' greetings from the Chair Prof. Dr. Marleen Temmerman
2019 will be remembered as the year of the Nairobi Summit ICPD+25, marking the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). In 1994 in Cairo, 179 governments adopted the concept of ‘reproductive rights’ and subscribed to a landmark Programme of Action (POA) empowering women and girls to take their own decisions, for their own benefit as well as for the benefit of their families and communities.  The Nairobi Summit celebrated the impressive progress made, but also called to renew the promise pledged 25 years ago and to implement the POA, key to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Too many girls and women are left behind and too many countries and regions still have a long way to go to reach the ICPD agenda. The good news is the loud voices of adolescents and youth who want more agency and decision power regarding their future. And they will need it, given the increasing push back from conservative powerful agencies . More good news is the many commitments made by different constituencies including Heads of State, global organizations, NGO’s, public and private sector, civil society, academia and others, to the renewed POA. ICRH was present and very actively engaged in the different work streams and sessions of the Nairobi Summit.


2019 is also a special year for ICRH, also celebrating its 25th birthday.  ICRH was founded in 1994 at Ghent University, in  the aftermath of the ICPD- Conference, aiming at supporting the POA. ICRH Belgium has now siblings in Kenya , 20 years old, and in Mozambique, going on 15, as well as partners in many more countries and regions.  As ‘Mama ICRH’, I am very proud and grateful for all the work done by the more than 400 staff that have joined the organization over the years. They have contributed to the many successes and to the impact we had, and still have, in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights. ICRH has matured now, is recognized as a stable and significant partner by the communities it serves and is growing in research outputs, capacity building and impact on policies and practices, locally and globally. Much has been accomplished but the unfinished agenda is still enormous . ICRH is determined to continue to work towards health and rights of the most vulnerable populations of the world.
A big thank you to all of you for your hard work, your dedication and your great contributions to ICRH throughout 2019, and very best wishes to you, your family and your friends, for the year 2020.

Prof. Marleen Temmerman

The International Centre for Reproductive Health is 25 years old!

Twenty five years ago the International Centre of Reproductive Health (ICRH) was founded by Professor Marleen Temmerman, as a response to the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. It was established first at Ghent University, but today ICRH has three sister organisations in Belgium, Kenya and Mozambique with strong collaborations with other partners worldwide. A quarter of a century later, this had to be celebrated, so in November there were events planned in Mombasa, Kenya and Ghent, Belgium. Below you can find some words and impressions of the festivities.

ICRH+25 celebrations in Kenya

Following the conclusion of the ICPD25 Nairobi Summit, ICRH held its 25 years celebrations in Mombasa, Kenya on the 15th November 2019 at the Sarova White Sands Hotel followed by field visits to ICRHK sites on 16th November 2019. The International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH) was established in 1994 by Prof Marleen Temmerman, in response to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD, Cairo, 1994). In Kenya, ICRH has projects in 17 counties in the areas of Sexual and Reproductive Health, including HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health and Family planning. The ICRH@25 celebrations was a great opportunity to have all the country offices convene and review ICRH Global contribution to the local and international SRHR space over the last 25 years as well as celebrate its achievements with partners, board members and friends. ICRHK held a glamorous dinner celebration to mark the 25th anniversary celebrations. Guests were drawn from various ministries of the national and local governments, donors and partners, including from the Technical University of Mombasa, a long-time partner of ICRHK. Words of Griffins Manguro, Country Director ICRH Kenya



ICRH+25 celebrations in Belgium

Twenty-five years… according to the United Nations this is the age when you are no longer considered youth. It is the age when you are expected to finally have completed your everlasting formal education and embark on a very promising professional career. It is also often the time where you question where you are in life and what direction you should follow. Likewise, I would like to reflect about where we are today with ICRH and I’ll do that with four letters.


I for Idealism. Exactly one hundred years ago, American president Woodrow Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his efforts in bringing peace in the aftermath of the first World War. He was a strong advocate of international cooperation and multilateralism avant la lettre. Twenty years later, on the eve of the second WW though, his views were coined by scholars as Idealistic as opposed to what they saw as the reality of the real world characterized mainly by self-interest and limited will for collaboration.

I’m afraid this latter sounds quite current. Today, we live in world where international collaboration and multilateralism are again very often seen as out-of-touch “idealism”. In the academic world too, the sentence “What’s in it for us” is increasingly becoming the bottleneck in discussions about potential partnerships. The harshness of the scientific maxim “Publish or perish” and the continuous struggle to secure funding are for many of researchers very demotivating factors.

Despite this, I am very happy to say that we as ICRH are proud to be Idealists. We do believe that we are part of a bigger movement, a movement that can make the world better… here in Belgium, in Europe and all over the world. I would even dare to say we are sometimes too idealistic to the point of becoming self-effacing. Indeed, we are often told by colleagues we should say “no thank you” more often. But then again, when you truly believe in something, you go all the way, don’t you.

C is for Commitment. In 1994, leaders from all over the world made a promise in Cairo. They promised they would take sexual and reproductive health and rights seriously and adopt national measures and legislation that would reflect this. Two weeks ago, world leaders reconvened - in Nairobi this time-, to reaffirm their willingness to do so. However, all had to admit that the progress that was made in the last 25 years was not sufficient. Women are still dying way too often as a result of pregnancy of childbirth, services remain inaccessible to many and the #MeToo movement has revealed how much work still needs to be done in combatting sexual violence. But while there is ample evidence of these existing needs, opposition to SRHR is growing fast. Two days after assuming office, Donald Trump issued a policy that has affected everyone involved in abortion; Poland is about to restrict sexuality education and ban abortion; and policy-makers in Uganda are trying to reinstate the death penalty for homosexuality. Gunta Lazdane former SRHR advisor at WHO EURO often mentions a Turkish delegate stating

This negative climate often puts the commitment of the SRHR community to the test.

Let me be clear: ICRH is and will always remain committed to its vision to contribute to sexual and reproductive health and promote it as a human right for all. I would like to mention in particular our colleagues for ICRH-Kenya and ICRH-Mozambique who had to face major dilemmas in choosing between American money for projects and renouncing to work related to abortion on the one hand, or accept the terms of the Trump administration in exchange for a lot of dollars. I’m so proud they declined the dollars, even though this resulted in huge financial insecurity. I think this merits some applause.

R stands for Relationships. More than ever before, the world has become one big village… However, at the same time we see that this globalization leads to a certain degree of fear for the unknown where different cultures and views are considered as potential threats. I sincerely hope we will manage to curb this attitude in the next decade and in the long term realize these reactions were similar to those of the farmers in the nineteenth century who thought the emergence of trains would result in their cows no longer producing milk.

But also within our own country, silos seem to remain very hard to dissolve. Very often we are insufficiently aware of what colleagues in universities, civil society, policy-making are doing and as a result miss many opportunities for strong partnerships.

ICRH has always been a true believer of strong partnerships. We have established an international network regrouping universities and civil society organization from all over the world to bridge the gap between researchers, policy-makers and civil society organizations. In a same way, we have taken the lead in a consortium of Flemish universities that have developed a master programme on Global Health. It took us 7 years, but I’m very proud to say we successfully started with our first students this September

Lastly, H for Holistic. We believe in a holistic approach to what we do. Academia is about research, education and societal outreach. You can separate one from the other and become either a top-level researcher, a highly inspirational teacher, or convincing activist. But we at ICRH want to be all of that. We believe that research is only useful if it helps society; that we need to mentor our students in global health research; and that our societal outreach should feed into our research and education. We believe that 1+1+1is much more than three and will continued investing in all three pillars equally.

Idealism, Commitment, Relationships, Holistic. This are four words but I could have used many others. I will end here however and leave it to my colleagues to present the history of ICRH and some of our achievements in many many more words, but also with images that often say much more than words. Once again thank you very much for your presence and support in the past 25 years and I hope to celebrate with you again in 2044.

Words of Olivier Degomme, Country Director ICRH Belgium


ICRH at the International Conference on Population and Development+25, 12-14 November 2019, Nairobi, Kenya

25 years after the ICPD conference in Cairo, where 179 governments adopted a landmark Program of Action to empower women and girls, the Nairobi summit ICPD +25 aimed to mobilize political will and financial commitments centered on eliminating preventable maternal deaths, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls, and the need the  need for family planning information and services.
ICRH participated actively in the conference where the delegation interacted and exchanged ideas with like-minded partners and also facilitated side events focused on identifying the role of researchers in promoting and translating sexual and reproductive health research and evidence into policy. This workshop was done in collaboration with Aga Khan University and other stakeholders. The team also facilitated a workshop focused on integrating mental health care into sexual and reproductive health service provision in humanitarian contexts.

"Women are the key to progress" by Minister Alexander De Croo
On December 10th, ICRH Belgium was co-organizing a lecture  on ‘Sustainable development goals and the global south’ of Ghent University.  This series of sessions is organized within the Global Minds Fund of the University, with the support of the Belgian Federal government. This fund aims at further developing and expanding the University Development Cooperation and sensitizing the broader University community bout global challenges and opportunities we face and to stimulate them to engage in finding solutions.
Belgians Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Development Cooperation, Mr. Alexander De Croo was our key note speaker with a focus on: ‘Women are the key to progress’.  Minister De Croo has proven a strong record on women’s rights.
In 2017 he was one of the initiators of ‘SheDecides’, a global political movement launched worldwide which are supporting safe abortion, contraceptives  and family planning.


Applications for Summer Schools  'Health & Migration' and ‘Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights’ are open

The Summer Schools 'Health & Migration' ‘Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights’  will take place 5-16th of July 2020 in the vibrant City of Ghent, Belgium. Registrations are open for bachelor and master students from all around the world who are interested in expanding their knowledge about global issues alongside students from different faculties and different cultures.
Within these 12 days, they present you a unique educational programme.
The Summer School ‘Health & Migration’ covers a wide range of interesting and contemporary topics such as global problems in migration, human rights, health inequ(al)ities, NGOs and many more. The Summer School ‘Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights’ will be focusing on family planning, gender, abortion, LGBT, STDs, sexual violence etc. Besides an educational program, we also offer a wide variety of exciting social activities which allow you to meet students from all over the world, all while experiencing our Belgian culture! Applications are now open! Deadline - Early Bird: 1st of February 2020, Final Deadline: 15th of March 2020. All practical information can be found on their website:


Senior Police officer training on sexual and gender-based violence at ICRH Kenya
Almost 30% of young women in Kenya report to have experienced sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) at least once in their lifetimes. ICRHK has supported the SGBV center at the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, a national referral hospital with a catchment population of over one million people, for over a decade. Since then, over 7,000 survivors have received post-SV care at the center. From a cross sectional survey conducted by ICRHK in August this year, more than half of young people aged 12 to 17 years reported that they would be afraid to report sexual violence to the police because they were afraid of how it would be perceived. To improve police response, and in response to findings from this survey, ICRHK trained over 25 senior police officers on SGBV in December 2019. The training was supported by AmplifyChange, an organization committed to creating awareness on sexual violence. In January 2020, ICRHK will support training for 50 police officers from Mombasa County.

Strengthening access to safe abortion services in Mozambique

Unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal mortality in Mozambique, and in 2014 the country liberalised its law in relation to abortion, significantly increasing the conditions under which it is legal to obtain a safe abortion. However, in practice women’s and girls’ access to safe abortion remains very low. While safe abortion services are provided in a growing number of health facilities, there are gaps in provision of quality, non-stigmatising services; and most people do not know about the law and services and stigmatise unwanted pregnancy and abortion. With support from the Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF), ICRH-M will implement a 15-month "demonstration project" in two districts of Tete Province, involving complementary interventions to reduce institutional and social barriers to safe abortion, and using this experience to contribute to learning on how to improve the effective implementation of safe abortion in ways that are accepted by health providers and communities. The main project strategies are: mentoring health workers to provide quality services; working with women, girls and communities to increase access to information and reduce stigma; and documenting and sharing project experiences.

ICRH Kenya at the International Conference for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa

This year’s theme at the International Conference for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA) was “AIDS FREE AFRICA - Innovation, Community, and Political Leadership". The conference which was held in Kigali, Rwanda, brought together over 10,000 participants from all continents.

The participants were from civil society organizations, academic institutions, donor agencies, advocacy groups, and local communities, including representatives of people living with HIV. The conference emphasized on the need for new leadership in the fight against HIV, specifically leadership from the youth. ICRHK presented work from research and programs targeting HIV among young people, HIV among key populations and the experience scaling-up oral pre exposure prophylaxis for female sex workers and men who have sex with men.

Integrating menstrual health management in sexual & reproductive health programmes for adolescents

In Mozambique there is increasing attention to addressing the sexual & reproductive health (SRH) issues faced by adolescent girls, including unplanned pregnancy, HIV/STIs, violence, and early marriage. A key issue for girls that is often not addressed in adolescent SRH programmes is menstrual health management (MHM). Many girls begin menstruating with little or no information about what is happening and how to manage it, and they do not have access to hygienic materials. Lack of facilities at schools mean that many girls miss school and some eventually drop out. Social norms about menstruation can discriminate and isolate girls, and lead to neither parents nor teachers assuming responsibility for talking to girls about MHM.

ICRHM has started a 1-year project funded by Amplify Change to document girls’ experiences and social norms around menstruation and MHM in Tete province, and to promote inclusion of MHM in adolescent SRH programmes.

1st Global Essential Medicines meeting: Researchers, clinicians, policy makers & WHO set agenda for health equity

On November 20-21, ICRH’s dr. Katrina Perehudoff attended the first Global Essential Medicines (GEM) meeting organised by Prof. Nav Persaud at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. The purpose of the meeting was to support work towards the vision of promoting health globally by improving essential medicines lists, and the GEM mission (see the GEM interactive website with the essential medicines lists of 137 countries).This meeting convened representatives of national Essential Medicines List (EML) programs, the World Health Organization (WHO), academics and clinicians. Katrina and Prof. Jillian Kohler, Director of WHO Collaborating Centre on Governance,Transparency & Accountability in the Pharmaceutical Sector, spoke on the panel “Rights, legal considerations and public allocative decisions” to tease out the legal and governance aspects of deciding who gets which medicine and at what price. This highly interactive meeting identified four priority areas for future work on global essential medicines.
Building on those priority areas, Dr. Katrina Perehudoff, Prof. Olivier Degomme, and Prof. Nav Persaud (University of Toronto) will advance this work in the context of the Strategic Institutional Partnership between the University of Toronto and Ghent University. In 2020, their joint project will investigate the accessibility and availability of essential medicines for sexual and reproductive health. For more information or to get involved, please contact Katrina (

Joint Laboratory for Global Health between Ghent University and Hebei Medical University

On 21 November 2019, during an official visit of the province of East Flanders to the Chinese Hebei province, an agreement was signed establishing a joint laboratory for global health between Ghent University (Belgium) and Hebei Medical University (China). This Joint Laboratory is a next step in a long tradition of  cooperation between two universities,  with started with a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012, a Cooperation Agreement and a Joint PhD Agreement in 2016.  The Joint Laboratory focuses on resource sharing and complementing each other's advantages in order to further strengthen scientific research and technology innovation on global health and primary care.









Governor of the province of East Flanders, Mr Didier Detollenaere; Ms. Nausikaä Lagrou, Policy Advisor International Cooperation, Department Economy, European and International relations , Province of East Flanders; Mr. Chi Zhang, Representative of Easter Flanders and Ghent University;  Prof. Dr. Wei-Hong Zhang, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, Ghent University were also participated in the ceremony.

Leni Linthout

As a recently graduate in Social Work and Social Pedagogy, Leni Linthout is a member of the Gender & Violence Team within ICRH Belgium. She contributes as a junior PhD-fellow to the implementation of the INHeRE-project. With INHeRE we strive towards optimized and streamlined care pathways for migrants, refugees and applicants of international protection who are victims of sexual violence and/or sex trafficking.  The scientific approach to and output of INHeRE forms the basis of Leni's PhD. She has the ambition to contribute to an equal access to rights for every child, woman and man on the planet and especially for those living in vulnerable situations. Therefore, we need to tackle inequalities on different levels: micro, meso and macro-level. In order to broaden my horizon and to gain deeper insight in policy-making processes, she is currently involved in an Advanced Master (evening) program focusing on European Integration and Development. More information:
PhD defense Michelle Gill
On Friday, December 13th, 2019 dr. Michelle Gill successfully defended her PhD entitled: “Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV: Approaches to improving antenatal care and male involvement” at Ghent University. The supervisors are Prof. Kristien Roelens and Prof. Marleen Temmerman. Congratulations Michelle! More information and full text: click here

Yugbaré Belemsaga D, Goujon A, Degomme O, Nassa T, Duysburgh E, Kouanda S, Temmerman M. Assessing changes in costs of maternal postpartum services between 2013 and 2014 in Burkina Faso. Int J Equity Health. 2019 Oct 15;18(1):154. Full article

Temmerman M, Ogbe E, Manguro G, Khandwalla I, Thiongo M, Mandaliya KN, Dierick L, MacGill M, Gichangi P. The gender-based violence and recovery centre at Coast Provincial General Hospital, Mombasa, Kenya: An integrated care model for survivors of sexual violence. PLoS Med. 2019 Aug 2;16(8). Full article

Galle A, Manaharlal H, Cumbane E, Picardo J, Sally Griffin, Osman N, Roelens K, Degomme O. Disrespect and abuse during facility-based childbirth in southern Mozambique: a cross-sectional study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2019) 19:369. Full article

Galle A, Cossa H, Griffin S, Osman N, Roelens K, Degomme O. Policymaker, health provider and community perspectives on male involvement during pregnancy in southern Mozambique: a qualitative study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2019) 19:384. Full article