Women and girls face extreme risks as health and protection systems weaken
UNITED NATIONS, New York, 24 August 2021 - UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, is scaling up its humanitarian assistance in Haiti following the 7.2 magnitude quake that struck in the southern region of the country on the morning of 14 August. More than 2,100 people are reported to have been killed, and 12,000 injured, with hospitals, schools, churches, bridges, and roads reduced to rubble. Days after being rocked by the earthquake, conditions on the ground deteriorated further as Tropical Storm Grace swept across southern Haiti, bringing heavy winds and rainfall and triggering localized flooding and mudslides.
The humanitarian needs in affected areas are acute as essential services are disrupted -- at least 24 health facilities have either been completely destroyed or damaged. UNFPA is particularly concerned for the thousands of homeless women and adolescent girls who remain in urgent need of essential and life-saving health, protection and support services.
"We stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti who are suffering in the wake of the devastating earthquake," said Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA. "Women and girls are disproportionately affected during crises, and 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."
To maintain health services amid the crisis, mobile health teams will be deployed and UNFPA will strengthen capacity at over 40 health facilities and hospitals to ensure providers can manage pregnancy-related complications, deliver family planning services and provide support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, including psychosocial counselling and referrals to appropriate services. Inter-Agency Reproductive Health Kits, containing medical and non-medical supplies, maternal health medicines and contraceptives, will also be distributed in tandem with personal protective equipment for front-line providers.
Initial 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 or experience complications, with potentially deadly consequences if access to emergency obstetric care is not available.
"We are working in close coordination with the Haitian Government and partners, as part of the joint UN humanitarian response, supporting assessments in the most affected areas using household data from the upcoming Population and Housing Census," said Yves Sassenrath, UNFPA Representative in Haiti. "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. We plan to distribute a further 3,500 kits in the coming days." As an immediate response to ensure women can give birth safely, UNFPA will distribute and equip eight temporary maternity tents.
Little more than a decade from the last earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, many of the same people are once again struggling to rebuild their homes and livelihoods amid political instability, rising gang violence and a global pandemic, which could hamper relief efforts. With thousands of people displaced and sleeping on the streets, UNFPA is also concerned that with disruption to services, women and girls face higher risks of violence.
"Protection and health support services must be prioritized for women and girls and other vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities," said 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."
UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. UNFPA's mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA calls for the realization of reproductive rights for all and supports access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services, including voluntary family planning, quality maternal health care and comprehensive sexuality education.
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