Reproductive health supplies airlifted into quake-shattered Haiti

Tens of thousands of pregnant women are expected to need safe delivery services in quake-affected areas in the coming weeks. © UNFPA Haiti/Samuel Lamery Pierre
  • 22 September 2021

PORT-AU-PRINCE/NEW YORK – UNFPA and partner agencies airlifted more than 125 tonnes of life-saving supplies to earthquake-shattered parts of Haiti, part of the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge operation.

More than 2,200 people are reported to have been killed by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the country’s southern region on 14 August. More than 12,260 people were injured, and more than 650,000 people require humanitarian assistance – many of whom are women and girls of reproductive age, who may additionally require reproductive health care, maternal health services, family planning support, as well as protection from and treatment of rape.

Initial UNFPA estimates suggest that more than 22,000 women are expected to give birth in the next three months. Of these, around 3,700 will likely require Caesarean sections. At least half of the available health facilities in affected areas have been damaged or destroyed, and many health personnel – including midwives – are themselves experiencing homelessness, trauma and loss.

A damaged building is wrapped in yellow "caution" tape.
Damaged buildings fill the street leading to Saint-Antoine Jeremie Hospital. © UNFPA Haiti/Samuel Lamery Pierre

“We have already managed maternal health emergencies and distributed prepositioned kits, containing basic hygiene items such as menstrual pads, soap and underwear, to women and girls in Les Cayes, South of Haiti,” said Yves Sassenrath, UNFPA’s representative in Haiti, in the days following the quake. 

Essential services and supplies

Still the sexual and reproductive health needs are far-reaching.

A recent assessment performed by UNFPA found that a number of campsites lack sufficient lighting and sex-separated toilet facilities, leaving women and girls vulnerable to violence. Preliminary information shows that some 1,800 water and sanitation systems have been damaged, and lack of sanitation facilities has left some women reporting vaginal infections and other concerns. 

Among the supplies provided by the recent airlift, and earlier humanitarian deliveries, were thousands of dignity kits, which contain essential hygiene supplies, including soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, menstrual pads and underwear. 

UNFPA has also procured reproductive health kits to support safe childbirth for thousands of women, as well as supplies to support clinical management of rape and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. UNFPA is also working to deploy mobile health teams and support family planning and maternal health systems at hospitals that are able to continue functioning.

A newborn delivered at Saint-Antoine Jeremie Hospital.
A newborn delivered at the Saint-Antoine Jeremie Hospital. © UNFPA Haiti/Samuel Lamery Pierre

Reaching the most vulnerable

In addition to equipping health staff to manage cases of sexual violence, UNFPA is also supporting survivors with psychosocial counselling and referrals to other appropriate services. These concerns are particularly acute, as gender-based violence is known to increase in humanitarian crises. 

“Protection and health support services must be prioritized for women and girls and other vulnerable groups, such as people living with disabilities,” said Mr. Sassenrath. “We have interacted with dozens of people in the affected communities since the earthquake and recorded their concerns and fears in an effort to provide adequate and immediate life-saving support. Our urgent task is to ensure that their health, mental well-being and rights remain at the front and centre of our humanitarian response in Haiti.” 

“Women and girls are disproportionately affected during crises,” emphasized UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “We will work with Government and local partners, and the international community, to ensure that their sexual and reproductive health and protection needs are prioritized and their safety and dignity preserved.”

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