Women’s experiences of armed conflict and forced migration in Middle Eastern, Balkan and African countries: a systematic review of qualitative studies – World

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Conflict and health volume 16, article number: 46 (2022) Quote this article

Summary

Background

A significant proportion of the world’s population is displaced, many of whom are women. Qualitative studies can generate in-depth findings that will contribute to the understanding of their experiences, but additional synthetic efforts are required. The aim was to provide a global perspective on the experiences of adult women in armed conflict and forced migration, focusing on women in or from countries in the Middle East, the Balkans or Africa.

Methods

Systematic review of English reports presenting empirical qualitative studies published in scientific journals from 1980 or later, using searches carried out in September 2021 in three databases combined with manual screening. Of the total 3,800 records reviewed, 26 were included. Methodological details and quality were assessed using predefined extraction and assessment tools. The findings of the included reports were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results

Most reports used interviews, including a total of 494 participants, and were assessed as having insignificant methodological limitations. The first theme concerns altered living conditions, involving reduced security, insufficient access to resources to meet basic needs, forced migration as a last resort, and some positive effects. The second theme concerns the health consequences experienced, involving psychological distress, risks during pregnancy and childbirth, exposure to violence and discrimination as a woman, as well as the lack of health and support services. adequate social. The third theme concerns resources and strategies that build resilience, involving social support and family life, as well as the use of internal resources and strategies.

Conclusion

When faced with armed conflict and forced migration, women face significant challenges related to changing living conditions and are exposed to health consequences. Women are constantly the target of serious structural and personal violence, while not having access to the most basic health services. Despite considerable hardship, these women demonstrate extraordinary resilience and endurance, finding strength through social support and internal resources. The qualitative research synthesized shows that women value social support, including peer support, which is a promising intervention that needs to be evaluated in future experimental studies.

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