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May 6, 2016

UNFPA Provides Care After Cyclone Devastates Fiji

A mother sits with her baby in a health facility
A mother sits with her baby in a health facility

In February of this year, Cyclone Winston devastated the island nation of Fiji in the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 340,000 people, or 40 percent of Fiji’s population, were impacted by the category 5 cyclone – the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere. The storm affected 87,500 women and girls of reproductive age, including 5,600 pregnant women. The storm also completely destroyed eight large hospitals and damaged 55 others.

Even under normal conditions, reproductive health issues are a leading cause of death and illness among women of childbearing age. When a crisis strikes, skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care often become unavailable, exacerbating the vulnerability of pregnant women.

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 $11 you can help UNFPA provide 3 emergency clean delivery kits to women without access to maternal health services.

Since Cyclone Winston hit Fiji, UNFPA has distributed over 1,000 clean delivery kits to women, procured 4,400 more and provided 150 reproductive health kits to medical facilities to ensure they can continue to offer life-saving reproductive health services despite damages or lack of electricity. UNFPA is also supporting the deployment of 20 additional midwives in highly impacted areas.

“We must ensure that services for pregnant women and childbirth facilities remain accessible. And women and girls must be able to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and from sexual violence,” stated Dr. Laurent Zessler, director and representative of the UNFPA Pacific Sub-Regional.

In addition to providing reproductive health care, gender-based violence (GBV) services are a critical part of meeting the needs of vulnerable women and girls in Fiji. According to the Fiji Women Crisis Center, 64 percent of women in the country suffer physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetime, and in times of crisis, rates of GBV often spike.

"It is a plain and simple truth that disasters reinforce, perpetuate and increase gender inequality, making bad situations worse for women,” said Margaret Wahlstrom, former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

UNFPA also provides dignity kits to women in disaster and the surrounding countries. Dignity kits contain items such as underwear, soap, a comb, and feminine hygiene supplies. For $25 you can provide these essential items to a woman for six months.


Apr 26, 2016

1 Year After the Earthquake: UNFPA's Work in Nepal

Meeting at UNFPA Female Friendly Space
Meeting at UNFPA Female Friendly Space

A year after two devastating earthquakes struck Nepal, UNFPA has gone deeper than addressing only its direct consequences. UNFPA’s work ensuring the health and dignity of women and girls after the disaster has begun to correct long-term issues of gender-based violence.

As in most crisis settings, the earthquake increased rates of violence; however, abuse was already pervasive before the quake hit, while the resources for women experiencing it were scarce. As part of its response, UNFPA helped establish 14 Female Friendly Spaces in the districts hardest hit. Over the past year, these 14 facilities have reached more than 410,000 women. 

“As the fabric of society broke down, insecurity and violence against women went up,” says Giulia Vallese, UNFPA’s representative in Nepal. “The deeper work to tackle the attitudes and beliefs that fuel violence against women is just getting going, and there’s far more to do.” UNFPA’s Female Friendly Spaces provide shelter as well as physical, emotional, and psychological support for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

“We faced a lot of resistance when we started all this,” says a member of Nepal's Women’s Human Rights Protection Network, a UNFPA partner. “I was threatened, and many men thought we would make their lives more difficult by helping women think differently. But after they came here, they started to understand and to work with.”

In addition to Female Friendly Spaces, UNFPA has provided the following services:

  • 132 reproductive health camps provided services and supplies to over 104,000 people.

  • 80 birthing facilities that were destroyed during the earthquake were rehabilitated so mothers can give birth safely and receive the post-natal care they need.

  • Over 56,000 Dignity Kits were provided to women and girls in earthquake affected areas. The kits include clothes, sanitary napkins, towels, washing materials, and a flashlight.
UNFPA tells girls about dangers of child marriage
UNFPA tells girls about dangers of child marriage


Mar 15, 2016

UNFPA Increases Facility-based Care After Ebola

UNFPA training on supply distribution
UNFPA training on supply distribution

In the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, UNFPA’s focus is now on helping the region’s health systems fully recover and become more resilient so they are better prepared for future outbreaks or crises. Most importantly, UNFPA is working with communities throughout the region to re-establish confidence in hospitals and healthcare facilities.

As a result of the Ebola outbreak, fewer women have been seeking facility-based healthcare for pre-natal treatment and check-ups as well as for deliveries. Throughout the outbreak, pregnant women were either turned away or stayed away from hospitals out of fear of contracting the virus. UNFPA is working with its partners to demonstrate to women that they can return to hospitals for the care they need, especially for pregnancy and childbirth.

By employing traditional midwives to build awareness of the benefits and availability of facility-based care, UNFPA is working to reduce maternal and newborn deaths to pre-Ebola levels and beyond. According to the World Bank, the maternal mortality rate in Liberia alone is projected to increase by 111 percent.

Through regular meetings with traditional caregivers, UNFPA is reinforcing the importance of referring pregnant women for facility-based care and delivery, where infections and illnesses can be treated and complications during delivery can be addressed.  

During monthly meetings, UNFPA provides traditional caregivers with refresher training on topics such as warning signs during pregnancy, the importance of facility deliveries, care for newborns, family planning and its benefits, the prevention of Malaria in pregnancy, the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, and the dangers of delivering without the supervision of a skilled caregiver.

In between meetings, traditional caregivers, who have developed relationships with communities and individuals, explain the benefits of facility-based care and child delivery to women and families. By spreading this message, UNFPA is working to reverse the impact of the Ebola outbreak by improving access to maternal health services.

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