TACLOBAN, Philippines — Medical teams organized by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, have started delivering reproductive health services to expecting and nursing mothers in evacuation centres for those displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.
The first medical missions, on Tuesday, 26 November, went to the two largest centres in this devastated city, at the Tacloban City Convention Center and the Jose Rizal Central School, where five to ten families are living in each classroom without electricity or water.
Forty-four pregnant women and 33 breastfeeding mothers received care. Each was tested for vital signs, given a gynaecological consultation and a test for infections. Pregnant women were given prenatal exams, including foetal heart monitoring. Midwives dispensed medicines and information about family planning methods. A counsellor was available for women showing signs of psychological trauma.
Two energetic health educators led group sessions covering topics including hygiene, HIV prevention, family planning and healthy pregnancies. Each woman received a dignity kit with toiletries and other essential household supplies.
On Thursday, the Tacloban team went to two more sites and served clients from 14 evacuation centres.
UNFPA has recruited local specialists for the missions. The team here has two obstetricians, a paediatrician, four nurses, three midwives, a medical technician and a mental health expert. Ten youth volunteers located the clients, helped set up the mission sites, provided childcare and assisted with the services.
Dr. Donna Monterd, a paediatrician in private practice, was gratified to be part of the team. “This is the first medical mission after the typhoon to give priority to pregnant women and women who have just given birth, a very vulnerable population.”
Dr. Monterd said most of the women she examined seemed to be in good spirits, despite their ordeal during the storm and their current hardship. “Filipinos are a resilient people,” she stated.
Lovely Paredes, a 21-year-old mother of two, who is eight months pregnant, was pleased after getting the dignity kit and the ultrasound exam. “I was so happy to hear my baby’s heart beat and know everything is OK,” she said. But she worries she might not be able to get to a birthing centre to deliver, as she has a 4-year-old daughter with special needs and cannot leave her alone.
Thursday’s first mission was at a wrecked school complex, in a shell of a classroom with a tarp covering the roof. The same room was used as an evacuation site during the typhoon. After the roof blew off, the terrified evacuees had to climb to the rafters to escape the storm surge. Nearly every room in the complex is filled with displaced families.
While all of this city’s medical facilities here were heavily damaged by the typhoon’s fierce winds and tidal surge, a number have reopened and are now able to provide safe delivery services, including three that can provide Caesarean sections.
There are some 230,000 pregnant women among the estimated 13 million people affected by the typhoon known locally as Yolanda. Nearly 900 are giving birth each day, with around 130 likely to experience potentially life-threatening complications.
UNFPA’s medical missions are being coordinated with national and local health and social welfare agencies. More missions will take place in the coming days in Eastern Samar and Capiz provinces.
In Tacloban, UNFPA is also distributing clean delivery kits and other reproductive health supplies to non-governmental organizations and government partners. Staff are currently helping assess maternal health needs in the heavily damaged towns south of the city, and in Palo, the Fund plans to install a maternity hospital in a container that can provide surgical deliveries.
And as part of its effort to ensure the safety of women and girls, UNFPA has set up women-friendly spaces in several evacuation centres, and is working with the national police to strengthen protocols for preventing and responding to gender-based violence.
For more information, contact:
In Manila: Arlene Alano, mobile +63 920 928 6471, [email protected]
In Bangkok: William A. Ryan, mobile +66 89 897 6984
In New York: Omar Gharzeddine; Tel.: +1 212 297 5028; [email protected]
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.