ISLAMABAD/UNITED NATIONS — Pakistani women uprooted by fighting in the Swat Valley have critical health needs that relief operations must urgently address, says UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
Some 69,000 pregnant women have been displaced since the start of military operations on 27 April. Nearly 6,000 of them are expected to give birth within the next month, with approximately 900 needing surgery to handle pregnancy-related complications, UNFPA estimates.
Responding to the escalating humanitarian crisis, UNFPA is scaling up its support for reproductive health care for the displaced throughout the North-West Frontier Province. As part of the United Nations-led joint funding appeal, to be launched today, UNFPA will ask for $3.9 million to provide comprehensive maternal, neonatal and child health care and psychosocial support, both in camps and nearby medical facilities, through the end of 2009.
“UNFPA is working with partners to provide life-saving services to pregnant women and psychosocial support and basic hygiene supplies for families that have been displaced,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA’s Executive Director. “We are basing our help on the specific needs of women and families, with a focus on safeguarding human dignity.”
The massive dislocation in the North-West Frontier Province has put pregnant women at special risk, exacerbating the already severe lack of access to prenatal care, assisted delivery and emergency obstetric care.
Working closely with government authorities, UNFPA is providing reproductive health care in camps in Lower Dir District. Medical workers operating two mobile service units have served more than 25,000 displaced people since last August. Eight additional mobile service units are being dispatched to other affected districts.
At the Pabbi civil hospital in District Nowshera, UNFPA is supporting emergency obstetric care for women referred from the Jalozai camp and others in the area.
A UNFPA team this week assessed reproductive health needs and identified service gaps in five districts hosting Pakistanis who fled the conflict in recent days. In addition to offering services in the camps, the Fund will strengthen four district hospitals and seven referral health facilities to deal with increased demand for medical services.
UNFPA has also distributed 15,000 personal hygiene kits to displaced women and 150,000 more kits are currently being prepared for distribution.
William A. Ryan
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