Press Release

UNFPA Airlifts Emergency Supplies for Eritrea; Board Endorses Rapid-Response Fund

21 June 2000
Author: UNFPA

United Nations, New York - The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is airlifting about 10 metric tons of life-saving emergency safe motherhood and reproductive health supplies to help Eritreans internally displaced by the recent fighting between their country and Ethiopia.

UNFPA Representative, Bruce Campbell, hands supplies to Eritrean health official

The supplies, which will be leaving Amsterdam for Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, in three instalments from 20 to 24 June, include home delivery kits and tools for blood transfusions. Meant to serve some 450,000 displaced persons for about three months, the supplies will be distributed by the Ministry of Health after it ascertains the areas of greatest need.

“Virtually all the buffer stocks that we had in Asmara have now been depleted,” a senior Health Ministry official told UNFPA Representative Bruce Campbell. “One of the biggest needs at the moment is to replenish our drug and emergency supplies."

In addition to the emergency supplies, the UNFPA will use a grant from the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) to buy and make available 17,000 bags of sanitary towels made at an Eritrean factory it helped establish. More than 11,000 pairs of underwear will also be provided for displaced women. The National Union of Eritrean Women, which asked for these products, will help distribute them.

The airlifted safe motherhood and reproductive health kits provide basic supplies needed to perform clean, safe deliveries. They include home delivery basic supplies, such as plastic sheeting, razor blades for cutting umbilical cords, gloves and plastic aprons. Also included are health-centre delivery subkits used to stabilize precarious situations, such as convulsions and bleeding; and referral-level instruments used to perform caesarian sections, resuscitate babies and mothers, and to handle childbirth complications. The overall package also includes tools for blood transfusion.

The reproductive health kit has been successful since it was first used in the Great Lakes region of Africa in 1996. Since then, the UNFPA has responded to emergencies in 33 countries and territories. At the beginning of 2000, 21 projects were in operation. Early this year, for example, the Fund helped victims of the cyclones and floods in Madagascar, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Last year, it responded to disasters in Turkey, Venezuela and India.

Displaced women who would benefit from the UNFPA emergency supplies shipment.

UNFPA received additional support for these efforts from the recent annual session of its 36-member Executive Board, which endorsed a proposal to use up to $1 million a year for special emergency circumstances. The fund will enable quicker response and serve as a base for emergency appeals.

“This will facilitate rapid response to crises and significantly improve UNFPA’s ability to respond quickly to urgent needs in the initial stages of emergencies,” said Dr. Nafis Sadik, UNFPA’s Executive Director. “This will shorten the time required to mobilize funds to help refugees and displaced persons or to adjust country programmes to finance emergency assistance. It will also enable UNFPA to respond to crises more quickly where it does not have programmes.”

The Government of the Netherlands has already pledged $2.5 million for emergency assistance in 2000, with further support over the next three years.

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The UNFPA is the largest internationally funded source of population assistance to developing countries. The Fund’s $6.8-million first assistance programme in Eritrea is helping the Government reduce maternal and child deaths as well as unwanted pregnancies by increasing access to reproductive health services.

Contact Information:

Abubakar Dungus
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5031

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