Saving Lives in Emergencies
CYCLONE GIRI RESPONSE
Cyclone Giri, a cateory four storm, made landfall in Rakhine State on 22 October 2010, killing at least 45 people and causing severe damage to houses and infrastructure, including health facilities, roads and bridges in the Townships of Kyaukpyu, Myebon, Minbya and Pauktaw. More than 100,000 people remain homeless and at least 260,000 people (52,000 house holds) were, and continue to be, affected.
UNFPA recognizes that reproductive health interventions have a crucial life-saving role in emergencies and must be addressed as a priority in the earliest days and weeks following a disaster. This is especially true when hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or damaged, limiting access to health care and exposing women to unwanted pregnancies and pregnancy-related deaths in perilous conditions. In crisis situations, women and girls are left especially vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation.
In the wake of the deadly cyclone, UNFPA and its implementing partners worked hard to meet the reproductive health needs of the victims by promoting access to maternal health services and hygiene and to ensure the protection of women and girls, including the preservation of their dignity.
In response to Cyclone Giri, UNFPA and its partners in Northern Rakhine State deployed a team to stricken area of Myebon immediately. They operated mobile and static clinics and provided medical and reproductive health care assistance and distribute dignity kits, clean delivery kits and baby kits.
UNFPA and its partners also supported life-saving sexual and reproductive health services in remote areas, like Northern Rakhine State (Rathedaung and Buthidaung). The aim is to provide access to emergency obstetric care and emergency reproductive health kits based on the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP). UNFPA's assistance to victims of Cyclone Giri is being provided during the period May 2010 - March 2011.
CYCLONE NARGIS RESPONSE
Cyclone Nargis struck the coast of Myanmar on 2 May 2008, causing severe damage in the Ayeyerwady Delta and Yangon regions. The cyclone’s destruction caused the loss of more than 130,000 lives and displaced millions, including many pregnant women.
In response to the needs of survivors, UNFPA acted quickly to restore life-saving reproductive health services giving pregnant women access to antenatal care and delivery assistance. Psychosocial support services were integrated into this response to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to gender-based violence and safeguard their well-being.
SAVING WOMEN’S LIVES
To ensure that women with high-risk pregnancies could access emergency obstetric care after the cyclone, UNFPA supplied equipment and refurbished maternity wards and safe delivery rooms in affected township hospitals. Maternity Waiting Homes were established close to hospitals to accommodate service rural women needing life-saving obstetric care.
In the worst-affected areas, UNFPA established health clinics with mobile outreach services to ensure that support also reached survivors living in remote area. The clinics were provided with essential drugs, maternity supplies and equipment. Pregnant women were given the basic provisions needed for clean deliveries.
UNFPA supported training in the Minimal Initial Service Package for Reproductive Health in Crisis Situations education model. Training promoted the integration of gender considerations into Cyclone Nargis emergency response strategies preventing maternal deaths, HIV transmission and sexual violence in the crisis.
PROTECTING WOMEN IN CRISIS
To meet the unique needs of women and girls, thousands of dignity kits containing sanitary supplies, clothing, sandals and multi-vitamins were also distributed, enabling women survivors to restore self-esteem and maintain personal hygiene in the days following the cyclone.
UNFPA led gender-specific awareness training on women’s protection needs in emergencies to government and humanitarian actors. The Fund also offered counselling and emotional support for women survivors, many of whom had lost their husbands and children. Assistance to these women extended to the establishment of ‘Women-friendly spaces’ offering psychosocial support, reproductive health education, and livelihood skills training with small business loans.
UNFPA has sustained funding to its humanitarian assistance activities in cyclone-affected areas. Focusing on the recovery needs of women, the Fund’s activities continue to enable thousands of pregnant women to access essential reproductive health care. Women-friendly spaces also continue to provide a welcome and secure place for women to re-establish their livelihoods.
Building on the success of training programmes, psychosocial support and reproductive health services given to Cyclone Nargis survivors, UNFPA is now developing an emergency preparedness strategy. Planning for the provision of emergency reproductive health care is critical to saving lives and preventing illness in people affected by future emergencies, especially women and girls.
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