UNFPA: Clean Birthing Kits in Emergency Situations

Mar 27, 2012

Providing Maternal Health After Phillipine Floods

Obstetricians providing help to pregnant women
Obstetricians providing help to pregnant women

NORTHERN MINDANAO, Philippines -- In the midst of the severe flooding brought on by tropical storm Washi, Analiza Tumanda was resigned to the idea of giving birth on the rooftop of a neighbor’s house. But as raging floodwaters started sweeping away houses along the banks of Cagayan River, Analiza, her husband and their three children (ages 8, 6 and 3) were forced to flee, moving from one rooftop to another along with neighbors.

Although she was in her ninth month of pregnancy, she hadn’t expected to deliver any day soon. But the fear, anxiety and physical stress exacted their toll, and her labor pains started.

“It was already past midnight and I really thought I would deliver right then and there,” the 30-year-old mother recalled. “My neighbors were also running for their lives and trying to get help. But when they realized my condition, they prioritized getting help for me.”

Several minutes later, policemen arrived onboard a pump boat, and they rushed her to the nearest village health station that was still safe from the rising water. Soon after, she delivered a healthy baby girl, who was later nicknamed Sendang, the female version of the storm’s local name Sendong.

More than 4,000 pregnant and lactating women assisted

Analiza is one of the more than 4,000 pregnant and lactating women reached so far by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in its relief efforts to assist storm survivors in Northern Mindanao and Eastern Visayas regions in southern Philippines. The UN estimates some 10,000 pregnant and lactating women and around 20,000 young people aged 10 to 25 have been affected by the floods in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and in the provinces of Bukidnon, Lanao del Sur and Negros Oriental. In total, about 135,000 families or 650,000 individuals were affected by the disaster, with 553,000 people left homeless. Some 4,600 families or 23,000 people remain in evacuation or relocation sites, with the rest seeking shelter outside the camps.

Distributing supplies to meet specific needs

The UNFPA assistance includes distribution of dignity kits to all pregnant and lactating women, clean delivery kits to women in their third trimester of pregnancy, and special medical missions designed to reach pregnant and lactating women and their infants.

The dignity kits, containing 18 items for basic sanitary supplies such as soap, a bath towel, toilet paper, sanitary pads, and other items, are distributed to protect the women and their babies from disease and infection. They are packed in acovered plastic bucket that can later be used to store clean water. Blankets and additional underwear are also provided.

UNFPA has also designed a personal hygiene kit for young people, with contents, such as combs, toothpaste and deodorant, that were requested by the young people themselves.

The clean delivery kits, meanwhile, are intended for use in case of an emergency childbirth outside a birthing facility. These are given only to pregnant women who are in their final three months of pregnancy.

Miraflor Cainoy, 31, one of the recipients of the clean delivery kits during the early phase of the humanitarian response, is now sheltered at the Calaanan Tent City. She had given birth on January 11 and happily narrated that she did not forget to bring with her the clean delivery kit she received from UNFPA when her husband took her to a birthing centre.

“Having the kit with me somehow gave me a sense of security that my baby and I will be okay. The kit was used by the doctor and midwife who assisted me during my delivery,” said the new mother of a baby girl, the third child in the family.

Medical missions to support reproductive health

Beyond the distribution of the kits, UNFPA continues to conduct medical missions in evacuation centres and relocation sites for flood survivors. So far 23 medical missions have been conducted in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and in the municipality of Bubong in Lanao del Sur.

As part of the medical missions, a series of health information sessions are also conducted, focusing on specific topics such as safe motherhood, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, family planning, prevention of violence against women and life skills for young people – all in the context of a humanitarian situation.

When the medical mission reached the evacuation centre where Analiza and her family are temporarily sheltered, she expressed relief as she said they haven’t been seen by a doctor since she gave birth.

“Except for minor ailments such as colds, my baby is fine but I still want her to get checked. I am also worried about getting pregnant again because of our current condition so I want to avail of family planning services also,” she said after attending the health information session.

To view a video documenting UNFPA's response to the Philippine flooding, please click here.

Miraflor Cainoy holding her baby.
Miraflor Cainoy holding her baby.
Medical mission performed on a mother affected by
Medical mission performed on a mother affected by
Dec 16, 2011

Join Diane Sawyer Tonight on 20/20 at 10 PM ET!

ABC News closes out its Year-Long Global Health Series by Examining the Most Dangerous Thing a Woman Can Do: Why So Many Women Are Dying During Pregnancy and Childbirth

Please tune into ABC’s 20/20 with Diane Sawyer tonight, Friday December 16th at 10PM ET, as she addresses why so many women are—1,000 every day – are dying during pregnancy and childbirth.

This 20/20 special will wrap up a year’s worth of ABC programming – and giving – to address global health issues.  The segment will provide a look at the challenges faced by mothers in developing countries, as well as the low-cost, low-tech solutions, including UNFPA’s Clean Birthing Kits which your contributions have helped sustain over the last year, to ensure the health and dignity of women and their newborns.

For as little as $11 you can help UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund get 3 emergency clean birthing kits, including a bar of soap, clear plastic sheet, razor blade, an umbilical cord tie, cloth and latex gloves into the hands of pregnant mothers and health care workers as they deliver safe babies in crisis situations.

Thank you for spreading the word about tonight’s special feature and for your support of UNFPA’s life saving work in 2011.  This holiday season, we hope that you and your friend will consider giving the gift of safe motherhood through UNFPA.

Nov 15, 2011

You Are Saving Lives in the DRC

Photo: Lynsey Addario
Photo: Lynsey Addario

Thank you for your donation to UNFPA through GlobalGiving! With your continued support, UNFPA will be able to make safe, clean births possible for thousands of women around the world. Please consider making an additional contribution today, and sharing the following report with people you know who also want to help. On behalf of the women and families we serve, we thank you!

BOGA, Democratic Republic of Congo — “My last two children were born on banana leaves, with help from my husband and women in my village,” recalls Antoinette Androsi, 32, who has been displaced by war for over six years in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “We used a machete to cut their umbilical cords, and one of them died a few days after she was born in the bush.”

Thanks to your support, during her latest pregnancy Antoinette was able to give birth in a maternity ward for the first time. Health facilities in the region lack even basic supplies and usually require expecting mothers to purchase materials like soap, gloves, a razor blade and a sheet, which are needed to ensure a clean delivery. Because many women can’t afford to buy these supplies, they often end up giving birth at home or outdoors without a trained health worker. However, this time Antoinette had access to a clean delivery kit, one of more than two thousand handed out to women in Ituri and South Kivu provinces through a joint effort by international non-governmental organizations MEDAIR and UNFPA, made possible through your generosity.

Women who deliver in a clean health facility with skilled personnel are much less likely to die, lose their babies or suffer a serious childbirth injury like obstetric fistula. A health worker with midwifery skills can facilitate normal delivery, identify complications early and refer a woman to emergency obstetric care, assuming such care is accessible.

Devastated infrastructure impedes progress

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that women and children generally account for around 80% of internally displaced persons and refugees worldwide. That displacement alone may impede a woman’s access to a health facility. But in the case of the DRC, conflict has destroyed much of the national infrastructure – not just health facilities, but also roads and transport and networks. UNFPA and partners recently supported national surveys of midwifery service coverage in countries including the DRC, and findings were published in the first-ever State of the World’s Midwifery Report 2011, in June. Unfortunately, there was not enough data available for the DRC.

A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 24 in the DRC, and the maternal mortality ratio is 670 deaths per 100,000 live births. Estimates put the total number of women who die of maternal causes each year at 19,000 – making it one of six countries that together account for half of all maternal deaths.

With funding from the Government of Finland, UNFPA has been working with partners to provide basic emergency reproductive health care in the region. In coordination with MEDAIR, over ten tons of medication and equipment were distributed to three general hospitals and 28 maternity wards in the five health zones of the region. These supplies were designed to provide care for at least 900 cases of obstetrical complications, 1,000 rape cases and 2,250 cases of sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, 2,500 pregnant women in the region received individual clean delivery kits.

Delivery kits save lives

“At first, we feared that the clean delivery kits would encourage women to give birth at home,” says Agnes, one of the midwives in the health centre in Boga. “But as it was the case with Antoinette, I was able to wash my hands with soap, wear gloves and cut the newborn’s cord in a clean environment. Even last week, I was able to successfully practice an episiotomy [a surgical incision to prevent vaginal tearing during delivery] on a teenage girl thanks to the razor included in the kit.” The kits are assisting the work of midwives and nurses, and also help prevent tetanus among newborns, an ailment which is widespread in the region.

UNFPA is supporting comprehensive efforts to move from immediate post-conflict recovery to rebuilding. The project that supplies clean delivery kits also supported the Ministry of Health and other humanitarian partners to train sexual health coordinators. After the training, the regional government for the first time included a reproductive health action plan as part of its priorities for 2011 – 2015. UNFPA support also provides medical assistance for survivors of rape and equips health facilities with the medication and materials to treat fistula.

You can help us raise awareness and funding by passing this e-mail along to friends and family and asking them to make a gift to our project on the GlobalGiving site (www.globalgiving.com - search for "UNFPA"). Thank you!


Jul 15, 2011

UNFPA Makes Pregnancy Safer in South Sudan

Pregnant woman receives antenatal care and kit
Pregnant woman receives antenatal care and kit

“We give mothers the clean delivery kits when they come for antenatal care and health education at the hospital,” explains Nabatanzi Cissy, a UNFPA-supported international midwife working at Maridi Hospital in Western Equatoria State, South Sudan. “Although we encourage them to come to deliver at the hospital, many still prefer to deliver at home, or cannot make it to the hospital on time, so end up giving birth on the way. In that case, it is good they have a delivery kit with them, because the kits [protect] the mother and the baby from infections.”

The world’s newest nation, South Sudan, is the most dangerous place on earth to give birth. One out of seven mothers risks dying from complications related to one of her many pregnancies. Because early marriage is common and contraceptive prevalence is only 3.5 per cent, girls start giving birth in their teens and average more than seven children each.

Decades of bitter conflict, widespread poverty, neglect and a scarcity of roads and other infrastructure have left the weak health system in a continued state of crisis. South Sudan has just 100 midwives and fewer than 500 doctors to cover a population of 8.3 million people. Midwives like Nabatanzi must cover long distances to reach women with life-saving care – and if a woman is too far from a health facility, may be required to assist the delivery on the spot with a clean delivery kit from UNFPA.

UNFPA moves quickly to respond to natural disasters and conflicts, but it also helps stricken communities like those in South Sudan as they transition from an acute emergency to the rebuilding phase.

UNFPA is working with South Sudan's Ministry of Health to improve skilled attendance at birth by training midwives and assisting the new government to set up basic health systems. While the long-term recovery process moves forward, the Fund will continue to provide clean delivery kits to displaced or vulnerable communities as an immediate intervention to help make pregnancy clean and safer.

Please support UNFPA’s work in recovering communities like those in South Sudan. With your assistance, UNFPA can continue to ensure that pregnant women who face the highest maternal mortality rate in the world (2,054 women die for every 100,000 live births) give birth in a clean environment, and that newborns, and this newborn nation, begin life with the promise of a better future.

You can help us raise awareness and funding by passing this e-mail along to friends and family and asking them to make a gift to our project on the GlobalGiving site (www.globalgiving.com - search for "UNFPA"). Thank you!


Apr 14, 2011

UNFPA Meets Women's Unique Needs in Emergencies

UNFPA helping pregnant women in Pakistan
UNFPA helping pregnant women in Pakistan

When emergencies strike, life can change in an instant. With your help, UNFPA continues to respond to emergencies around the world to protect the reproductive health of communities in crisis.

In July 2010, monsoon rains fell across Pakistan, causing devastating floods and significant damage to human life, livestock and property. Over 20 million people were affected, of which 6 million were in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.  Massive displacement, poor living conditions, overcrowding in camps and lack of privacy, disruption of social networks and social norms and destruction of health and other support facilities exacerbated the already acute vulnerabilities of women and girls to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence.

Emergencies affect women differently. In the rush to provide assistance, some critical needs may be forgotten. "Women have special needs because they continue to give birth, regardless of the dangers surrounding them, and require medical care to ensure safe delivery," former UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said at the time.

UNFPA responded quickly to Pakistan's needs.  Clean delivery kits, women's hygiene kits, and newborn kits were distributed to over 2 million women who were more than 6 months pregnant. Clinical delivery assistance kits were also given to hospitals and mobile service units to perform normal deliveries and to stabilize patients with serious complications.

UNFPA also deployed fully-staffed and equipped mobile service units to provide emergency reproductive health care and psychosocial support. 

As it did in Pakistan, UNFPA continues to address women’s unique needs in Pakistan and around the world. Today, UNFPA is still helping pregnant women affected by the flood by providing equipment and medicine, including safe delivery kits.

Please continue to support UNFPA in this work to help ensure that, when a conflict or natural disaster occurs, every pregnant woman can give birth to her child in a clean and safe environment. You can help us raise awareness and funding by passing this e-mail along to friends and family and asking them to make a gift to our project on the GlobalGiving site (www.globalgiving.com - search for "UNFPA"). Thank you!

UNFPA providing newborn kit in Pakistan
UNFPA providing newborn kit in Pakistan


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Project Leader

Olivia Ryan

NY, NY United States

Where is this project located?

Map of UNFPA: Clean Birthing Kits in Emergency Situations