UNITED NATIONS, Nairobi/ New York — Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is visiting refugee camps in Kenya to underscore the urgent needs of women affected by the famine in the Horn of Africa.
So far, 12.4 million people have been affected by severe drought in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, the drought resulted in 3.7 million internally displaced people. The world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab in Kenya, has seen its population soar close to 500,000.
Dr. Osotimehin will visit Dadaab refugee camps and the surrounding host communities in Garissa on 3 September. During his visit, he will underline to partners, government officials and stakeholders the importance of addressing the urgent needs of pregnant and lactating women, prevention of sexual violence and treatment of its survivors among refugees and host populations.
Health facilities in the affected regions suffer from shortages of medical supplies and trained health-care providers. The main gaps in the provision of reproductive health care include overstretched resources and lack of medical supplies and equipment.
Through local partners in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti, UNFPA is providing supplies, including reproductive health care kits, to hospitals, primary health-care facilities and communities. Emergency reproductive health kits have been distributed in Dadaab refugee camps and host communities, targeting approximately 615,000 people. Clean delivery kits are distributed to the most vulnerable pregnant women among affected communities to ensure clean and safe deliveries. The Fund has also trained midwives and other health workers and provided them with the necessary medical supplies for improved quality care. Over 20,000 hygiene kits are also being provided to most vulnerable women and girls in the region to cover their unique needs and maintain their dignity.
The way forward
Given the high levels of malnutrition and mortality, combined with the likelihood of increasing prices and a harsh dry season, the situation is likely to deteriorate over the coming months. During his visit, Dr. Osotimehin will call on the international community to:
- urgently address the unique needs of pregnant women, those in labour and mothers whose families’ survival are particularly at risk. When a woman suffers from hunger and exhaustion, her children’s survival is even more at risk. Experts estimate that eliminating malnutrition among mothers can reduce disabilities among their infants by almost one third.
- immediately support life-saving services to survivors of sexual violence. This includes medical treatment and psychosocial support.
- maintain and improve its effort to prevent cholera and measles outbreaks in the region. Prevention and awareness programmes should specifically target women as they are usually the primary caregivers for children.
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