UNFPA responds to needs of most vulnerable as displaced population surges in northern Pakistan
BANNU DISTRICT, Pakistan – When Farhat Begum heard that the ongoing military operations in North Waziristan had displaced more than one million people, she knew that it was time to come home.
Ms. Begum had been working as a midwife in Kabul, Afghanistan, but decided to return to Pakistan to help pregnant women displaced by the latest crisis in the north of the country. She joined the Mamashkel Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Clinic, one of three overburdened facilities supported by UNFPA and its partners in Bannu District.
“UNFPA and Muslim Aid have been helping the affected people here, not only those who came from North Waziristan, but also the host communities,” says Ms. Begum, who has been providing reproductive health services at the clinic. These include antenatal and postnatal care, as well as assisting with deliveries.
Health facilities strained beyond capacity
More than one million people from Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency have been displaced, according to the latest figures from the Government’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA). UNFPA estimates that more than 250,000 are women of reproductive age and that at least 36,000 are pregnant.
Most of the displaced have sought shelter in the Bannu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The vast majority are living with host communities or in public buildings, amid stifling heat.
The influx of people has severely strained health facilities and the lack of medical staff to provide care for displaced women is a critical challenge.
The maternal ward at the UNFPA-supported Zanana Women and Children Teaching Hospital in Bannu City, which used to support about one hundred deliveries per month before the crisis, is now trying to cope with one hundred per week.
UNFPA on the front lines of the humanitarian response
As part of the government’s coordinated humanitarian response to the emergency, UNFPA, together with its partners – including Muslim Aid, the Network for Human and Social Development, and the Sarhad Rural Support Programme – is helping to ensure that pregnant women are able to deliver safely and providing women with essential hygiene supplies.
“UNPFA recognizes the special needs of women in humanitarian situations," says Ann Keeling, the UNFPA Representative in Pakistan. “We want all pregnant women to have safe deliveries and women of all ages to be protected from violence. We are working with the government, the UN and our NGO partners to assist women in desperate circumstances far from home.”
Since the latest crisis began, UNFPA has provided reproductive health services to more than 6,000 women and men, and assisted with nearly 200 safe deliveries. It has also distributed more than one thousand clean delivery kits, newborn baby kits and dignity kits with personal hygiene items.
“UNFPA’s efforts are critical to address the reproductive health issues during the North Waziristan crisis,” said Samra Mazhar, Deputy Director of the National Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Network.
In addition, the Fund is raising awareness about gender-based violence among the displaced population and within host communities.
What is needed
UNFPA is seeking USD 1.8 million to support reproductive health and gender-based violence interventions to help cover the needs of nearly half of the affected population, as well as to raise awareness about gender-based violence in this fragile context.