UNFPA Aid to Iraqi Women
War or no war, more
than 2,000 Iraqi women give birth every day.
Like all expectant
mothers, these women need adequate nutrition and access to vitamins,
and antenatal care to deliver safely. Even in the best of circumstances,
more than 300 of these women would need emergency obstetric
But over a decade of
war and international sanctions have caused severe damage to
the Iraqi health care system, leaving the country with limited
access to medicines, equipment and supplies. This decline, combined
with increasing poverty and poor nutrition, has had serious health
consequences for Iraqi women and children. Maternal mortality
and infant mortality have more than doubled. More than half of
Iraqi women are anaemic, a quarter of babies are born with dangerously
low birth weights, and there has been a sharp rise in birth defects
and infant deaths.
|Maternal Mortality Ratio (per 100,000
Rate (per 1,000)
The outbreak of war-and
the resulting interruption of food distribution, access to water
and electricity, and other supply lines-is now making the situation
even worse, further endangering the lives of Iraqi women and
UNFPA, the United Nations
Population Fund, is committed to ensuring that pregnant women
in Iraq can give birth safely in a clean environment and receive
emergency obstetric care if needed.
"Women will now
face increased risks," said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya
Obaid in a recent statement. "We
must do all we can to alleviate suffering and hardship and save
Two recent UN studies-an independent
experts' assessment, and a report
by the Secretary-General - illustrate some of the ways
that women are disproportionately affected by war.
with the high rates of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic
suffered by a large part of the war-affected population, these
factors could have serious consequences on the physical and
psychological health of Iraqi women, requiring interventions to
and communities cope.
UNFPA has been active
in Iraq since 1972. As a result of its efforts, the number of
facilities providing reproductive health services increased from
37 in 1995 to 146 in 2001.
Over the past several
months, UNFPA has stepped up its efforts to safeguard the reproductive
health of Iraqi women and their families, and to make special
preparations for humanitarian assistance in the event of war.
a part of extensive contingency
planning before the conflict, UNFPA and its partners
recruited and trained personnel and positioned essential
supplies both inside Iraq and in potential refugee settings
in neighbouring countries.
Since January, the Fund has delivered reproductive
health equipment, supplies and essential medicine to health facilities
in 15 Iraqi governorates, including facilities run by the Iraqi
Family Planning Association and women's NGOs. Emergency
medical equipment has also been delivered to key sites in neighbouring
and July 2003, two shipments
were delivered by UNFPA, to key maternity hospitals and primary
healthcare centres in Baghdad.
When the situation permits,
UNFPA and its partners will step up efforts to increase access
to antenatal care and emergency obstetric care inside Iraq,
to reduce maternal deaths and neo-natal deaths.
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