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Jul 26, 2017

Saving Mothers and Newborns in Bangladesh

Anjana with her newborn baby
Anjana with her newborn baby

On April 4, the Trump Administration made the decision to defund UNFPA. This decision will directly affect millions of the most vulnerable women and girls around the world because this loss of funding will cause UNFPA to scale back their work. This puts the lives of women like Anjana at risk.

Anjana began feeling labor pains 36 weeks into her pregnancy. At age 20 giving birth for the first time, she had no idea that these labor pains were a sign that both her life and the life of her baby were at risk. After a full day of suffering from pains and having contractions, her family called for a midwife. By the time the midwife arrived, Anjana was already in obstructed labor and in a potentially fatal condition for both her and her baby.

Lucky for Anjana, this UNFPA-trained midwife knew exactly what to do. She was urgently sent to the Kamalganj health complex where a doctor helped her give birth to a happy and healthy baby. She was later told that if she had delayed going to the hospital any longer, her baby would have died. UNFPA’s clean delivery kits contain basic items necessary for a safe birth, including sterile gloves, a blanket, a plastic sheet, and soap. For only $15 you can help UNFPA provide 3 emergency clean delivery kits to women without access to maternal health services.

Unfortunately, many women like Anjana are not as lucky. Anjana lives and works on the tea plantations, or tea gardens, in the Moulvibazar District of Bangladesh. The vast majority of workers in Bangladesh’s tea gardens are women, and they are also some of the most impoverished and marginalized people in the nation.

These women face the highest rates of pregnancy related deaths in the country. In 2014, 40% of the entire nation’s maternal deaths occurred in these tea gardens and surrounding areas.

UNFPA, partnering with the government of Bangladesh, created a midwife-led health care program to ease this disproportional burden felt by women working in tea gardens. UNFPA trains midwives, who, in turn, provide antenatal care, safe delivery services, and educate the women in these areas about the importance of receiving care during pregnancy and childbirth. What began as five pilot programs in February of 2016 is now double in size. 

As a result of this program’s success, more women like Anjana and her baby are receiving the care they need to have a safe birth. Now, 55,000 people in Bangladesh have access to maternal health services that they did not before. From September of 2016 to April 2017, the UNFPA-trained midwives reached 450 women with antenatal care services and 279 newborns received post-natal care. 

Despite the fact that this program has improved maternal healthcare among Bangladesh’s most vulnerable women, it is at risk of being scaled back. The decision for the U.S. Administration to defund UNFPA has put successful programs such as this at risk of losing necessary funding and puts women and girls at risk. Now, UNFPA needs our help to continue their live saving work.  

UNFPA-trained midwife examining tea garden worker
UNFPA-trained midwife examining tea garden worker
May 1, 2017

Pregnancy complications on an island off of Kenya

Aisha gave birth on a remote island in Kenya
Aisha gave birth on a remote island in Kenya

Pregnancy complications take one woman from island paradise to nightmare at sea

Aisha, now 30, nearly died during the birth of her fifth child.

Aisha lives on a tropical island, Kiwayuu, off the northern coast of Kenya where there are no health facilities and the nearest hospital is on the Lamu Island and can only be accessed by motorboat over wild ocean waves, which could take up to seven hours. As a result of these circumstances, Aisha and other women on the island give birth at home with the help of a traditional birth attendant that usually has limited skills and knowledge.

“In the event of pregnancy-related complications, or even maternal deaths, we would conclude that it was God’s will,” Aisha said.

Aisha had given birth at home to her first four babies with no complications, but this time was different. As soon as she went into labor, she began to hemorrhage dangerously and the traditional birth attendant did not know what to do.  “I couldn’t stop the bleeding. No one could,” she said.

Aisha was suffering from a life-threatening complication and needed urgent medical attention. She was forced to take the journey by motorboat to the hospital on Lamu Island. The waters were rough, yet Aisha had to continue her painful and difficult labor as she continued to bleed. She delivered the baby after 30 minutes and luckily survived.

At the King Fahad County Referral Hospital on Lamu Island, she was treated for the hemorrhage and her baby was diagnosed with low birth weight from intrauterine growth restriction.It is possible that malnutrition or anemia contributed to these conditions, most likely as a result of no antenatal care.

“As a marginalized community, we were ignorant about the importance of antenatal care, largely because we didn’t have a health facility in Kiwayuu.” Aisha said.

Complications such as this one can be solved by increasing access to proper reproductive health care, including antenatal care, skilled birth attendance and safe delivery services. Providing these services would ensure that women can have a safe birth.

UNFPA has partnered with the local government to do just this. They opened a health facility on the island of Kiwayuu where maternal and newborn health equipment and medicines as well as family planning supplies are available for the 600 residents of the island. UNFPA has also trained health workers to provide emergency obstetric and newborn care.

One of these trained health workers is Aisha. She says, “I now work in my community to raise awareness about maternal mortality, its prevention, and access to maternal and child health services.” Thanks to UNFPA and skilled health workers like Aisha, women on the island of Kiwayuu have access to maternal and newborn health care that allows them to have a safe birth.

UNFPA’s clean delivery kits contain basic items necessary for a safe birth, including sterile gloves, a blanket, a plastic sheet, and soap. For only $15 you can help UNFPA provide 3 emergency clean delivery kits to women without access to maternal health services.

Aisha now trains women on maternal care with UNFPA
Aisha now trains women on maternal care with UNFPA
Jan 31, 2017

Safe Birth for South Sudanese Refugees

Years of conflict in South Sudan has left more than 5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Adama Dieng, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, recently said “there is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential for genocide”.

Leaving the danger in South Sudan along with many others, the Anduga family fled across the Nimbule border to escape from and settle in Maaji, one of the numerous refugee settlements throughout the Adjumani District in Northern Uganda.

Although the Anduga family arrived safely in Uganda, their worries and fears did not disappear. Ms. Anduga fled while pregnant with her third child and was unsure about giving birth in this new environment. Fortunately, Ms. Anduga was approached by a community volunteer and notified about the life-saving services provided by UNFPA to ensure safe births, even in this humanitarian setting.

Both Mr. and Ms. Anduga went to a nearby UNFPA supported health facility for pre-natal care and went back the morning Ms. Anduga went into labor. The midwife on duty made sure that she gave birth to a healthy baby girl with no complications.

Now both Mr. and Ms. Anduga spread the word about UNFPA supported health facilities throughout the refugee settlement to ensure all refugees have access to proper care and safe births.

"I will continue to encourage my fellow men to escort their wives during antenatal care visits and during labor so that they understand what women go through during this process," Mr. Anduga said. "Most importantly, women require special care during these times."

UNFPA provides a wide range of support beyond safe births to South-Sudan refugees living in the Adjumani District of Uganda. This includes strengthening the health system, providing health care and education, and preventing and responding to gender-based violence. In addition, UNFPA distributes reproductive health kits to healthcare workers and supplies dignity kits, which contain vital hygiene items including menstrual pads and soap to women and girls.
 

A donation of only $25 can provide one woman in a humanitarian setting with a dignity kit that provides hygiene essentials for six months, ensuring that she is able to maintain her dignity and health in emergency situations.

 
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