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Special Report on UNFPA Assistance Six Months After the Tsunami

Story and photos by William A. Ryan


Seulimum Health Centre staff.



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Restoring Basic Services

At the Seulimum Health Centre , two doctors, eight nurses and seven midwives serve a subdistrict of 28,000 people in 48 villages as well as a number of survivors' camps. It is one of eight centres in Aceh that UNFPA has been asked to upgrade as part of its contribution to the reconstruction effort.

In the next few months, training, equipment and supplies will be provided to improve services and enable health centre staff to perform emergency obstetric care when delivery complications occur. Each of the centres will get an ambulance and communications system to facilitate urgent referrals.

Satellite health posts and mobile medical units are being set up to serve displaced communities and replace services destroyed in the disaster.

This capacity building effort includes a province-wide assessment of the need for more midwives, done in collaboration with the Aceh Midwives Association. Just after the earthquake and tsunami, one third of the midwives did not report to work, and no one yet knows how many lost their lives or homes.

Restoring proper health care is further complicated by the long-term disrepair and neglect that have rendered most of the village health posts in the embattled province nearly inoperative. Still, about 20 midwives assist women in pregnancy and childbirth in the subdistrict, travelling by motorcycle to distant villages.

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