AMMAN, Jordan — As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is calling for urgent support to protect the lives of the country’s estimated 200,000 pregnant women, including an estimated 1,480 women who give birth in dire conditions every day. Among the challenges facing these women as a result of the conflict are malnutrition, lack of medical care and unsafe deliveries.
“Many pregnant women in Syria suffer multiple challenges, such as psychological difficulties, gynecological problems, nutritional shortages and complications from early pregnancies,” said Daniel Baker, UNFPA Syria Regional and Response Advisor. “Maternal deaths tend to increase during disasters - yet these can be prevented if urgent interventions are made at the right time.”
The prolonged conflict has also resulted in a breakdown of healthcare systems, shortage of qualified health personnel, and the disruption of reproductive health supplies. In besieged areas, women give birth in unsanitary conditions without skilled birth attendants.
As the conflict displaces thousands of women and threatens their security, pregnant women are increasingly opting for Caesarean sections to ensure access to a doctor at the time of delivery. UNFPA is alarmed by the increase in the rate of Caesarean sections within Syria, from 19 per cent in 2011 to 45 per cent in certain areas in 2013. Global guidelines recommend that no more than 15 per cent of deliveries should be performed this way. This adds to the costs and strains on an already overburdened health system and puts women at further risk.
Many pregnant women have become heads of households, adding to the stress of their daily lives. Domestic violence, along with other forms of gender-based violence, such as sexual harassment and early marriage, have also increased as a direct consequence of conflict.
Since the beginning of the crisis, UNFPA and its partners have supported the safe deliveries of around 240,000 babies. In 2013 alone, more than 1.9 million women have benefited from UNFPA-supported reproductive health services, while 26 reproductive health clinics have been established, and direct support has been provided to 267 health facilities and mobile clinics.
As the number of pregnant women in need is anticipated to increase in 2014, UNFPA is facing a significant shortfall in funding required to continue this important life-saving work. “UNFPA needs financial support and goodwill from all stakeholders to protect pregnant women, help them live in dignity, and provide them with essential reproductive health services, safe places, basic hygiene supplies, education and maternal health support,” said Mr. Baker. “They also need access to family planning to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted and that their health is not put at risk.”
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that is delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
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