Assisting in Emergencies

Nazia, 19, lost most of her family when a landslide buried her home village of Chikkar after a devastating earthquake hit Pakistan in October 2005. When she learned she was pregnant, she was referred to a new UNFPA-supported maternity centre, where doctors and midwives work around the clock, delivering two to three babies a day. New clinics like this one reveal how UNFPA helps to restore—and where possible, improve—reproductive health services in the wake of crises. Many mothers and children in some of the hardest-hit areas now enjoy better access to health care than before the disaster.

When crisis strikes, UNFPA helps to restore or establish life-saving reproductive health services for displaced persons and other affected communities. The Fund also works with local and international partners to ensure that the particular strengths and vulnerabilities of women and girls are factored into the planning of all humanitarian assistance.

Providing Emergency Health Supplies and Equipment

During 2006, UNFPA worked with partners to prevent pregnancy-related deaths, HIV infection and sexual violence in 45 countries affected by conflict or natural disaster—through the provision of emergency health supplies and equipment, technical support and reproductive health services. Some examples of UNFPA humanitarian activities in 2006 include:

Spotlight on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Sexual violence occurs at every stage of a conflict. Victims are usually women and adolescents who have been separated from their families and communities. In most conflicts, women’s bodies become battlegrounds, with rape used as a weapon of war to humiliate, dominate or disrupt social ties among targeted communities. The physical and psychosocial effects on victims can be devastating, with the trauma frequently extending to family members and entire communities.

UNFPA works with governments, local organizations and other humanitarian partners to provide medical care and social support to the survivors of sexual violence and to prevent future attacks. It provides specialized training to female health and social workers, establishes and equips women’s crisis centres and builds measures to help ensure that the safety of women and children in refugee camps are incorporated into emergency response plans. Through training, the provision of supplies and technical support, UNFPA works to ensure the availability of the Minimum Initial Services Package for reproductive health in emergencies, which includes post-rape treatment, counselling, emergency contraception, STI treatment and post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection. In 2006:

Lebanese women visiting a UNFPA mobile clinic at the Alzabadani refugee camp in Syria. The clinic, whose staff includes a gynaecologist, provides a range of services, including antenatal care, family planning, and treatments for reproductive tract infections and anaemia

Safeguarding Maternal Health

Conflicts and natural disasters put pregnant women and their babies at risk because of the sudden loss of medical support, compounded in many cases by trauma, malnutrition, disease or exposure to violence. Urgent interventions can mean the difference between life and death. That is why UNFPA supports the provision of family planning, prenatal care, safe child delivery and post-partum care during humanitarian response. In 2006:

In times of conflict, women often single-handedly ensure the safe flight of children, older relatives and the disabled across barren, unfamiliar territory, especially when men have been killed or are away fighting. In the aftermath of a natural disaster and in refugee settings, traditional roles often expand at the same time that even basic tasks, such as water collection, become more difficult to undertake. In all of these situations, women must overcome immense obstacles to provide care and safety for others even as their own vulnerability to malnutrition, sexual violence and exploitation, sexually transmitted infection, unplanned pregnancy and unassisted childbirth increase. In 2006, UNFPA produced a new publication, Women are the Fabric: Reproductive Health for Communities in Crisis, to promote greater understanding of the particular strengths and vulnerabilities of women in crisis.

Immediate Response and Long-Term Rebuilding

Within hours of an emergency, UNFPA ships safe blood supply equipment, clean delivery kits and the medicine and supplies that health facilities require to provide clinical delivery assistance, emergency obstetric and post-partum care. In 2006:


Assisting in Emergencies