Protecting the Reproductive Health of Communities in Crisis

Performing Caesarean Sections on a Park Bench

PORT-AU-PRINCE — As hospitals struggle to meet the needs of the thousands of wounded, maternity wards have in some cases given way to surgeries and orthopaedic treatment because of the overwhelming number of serious injuries.

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When emergencies strike, life can change in an instant. Conflict and natural disasters can destroy homes and communities – or suddenly drive people from them. Forced to flee or find shelter, often with little more than the clothes on their backs, families and individuals find themselves without basic necessities – from obvious things like food and water to hygiene supplies, contraceptives and medical care.

In times of upheaval, pregnancy-related deaths and sexual violence soar. Reproductive health services - including prenatal care, assisted delivery, and emergency obstetric care - often become unavailable. Young people become more vulnerable to HIV infection and sexual exploitation. And many women lose access to family planning services, exposing them to unwanted pregnancy in perilous conditions.

UNFPA in Action

UNFPA moves quickly when emergency strikes, to protect the reproductive health of communities in crisis. It also provides assistance to stricken communities as they move beyond the acute crisis and enter the reconstruction phase. The Fund also supports various data collection activities, including censuses to provide detailed information for planning and rapid health assessments to allow for appropriate, effective and efficient relief.

Assisting Pregnant Women in Haiti as Risk to Babies Rises

UNFPA is providing medical kits to thousands of expectant mothers in Haiti in case they cannot get medical attention in time and give birth at home or on the streets where they are living after last month’s earthquake.

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UNFPA is committed to assisting and protecting women, men and youth made vulnerable by natural disaster, armed conflict, and other causes. This includes refugees, internally displaced persons, and people made homeless or vulnerable by natural disaster. In the rush to provide humanitarian assistance, the particular strengths and vulnerabilities of women are often overlooked. Yet targeted support to women can be one of the best ways to ensure the health, security and well-being of families and entire communities. UNFPA works with partners to ensure that the specific needs of women are factored into the planning of all humanitarian assistance. including urgent reproductive health needs that are sometimes forgotten.

UNFPA also supports the interagency GenCap initiative, which deploys gender advisors on short notice in the initial stages of sudden-onset emergencies as well as in protracted or recurring humanitarian situations. These advisors work closely with the entire UN team to ensure that the specific needs of women and men, girls and boys are being addressed.

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