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.

Jan 23, 2017

UNFPA Provides Relief After Hurricane Matthew

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, continues to work with partners in Haiti to rebuild the health systems devastated by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.

In October, UNFPA began relief efforts in the most affected areas of Haiti as a result of Hurricane Matthew. Before this disaster, women and girls already had difficulty in accessing high-quality maternal health services. Haiti suffers from the highest rate of maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere. Prior to Hurricane Matthew, only 33 percent of the 36 emergency obstetric and neonatal care (EmONC) services were functional, with a total staff of approximately 35 midwives. In Grande Anse, which ultimately became the worst-hit district, only 18 percent of births were assisted by trained medical professionals before this disaster. The maternal mortality rate was already extremely high, with 380 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015 (WHO). Only about 31 percent of women use modern contraceptive methods, and the total fertility rate (TFR) stands at 3.5 children per woman. In 2012, 64 percent of Haitian women were still giving birth at home without medical assistance. These trends in maternal health continued up until Hurricane Matthew

Since the Hurricane struck, UNFPA has focused its efforts in this crisis by providing reproductive health kits, sending UNFPA-trained midwives for 17,000 pregnant women, 2450 dignity kits, 1000 cooking kits, and 1000 emergency food kits to women and girls. In response, 157 temporary shelters have been set up in the most affected areas. These efforts have been focused on emergency relief in order to prevent maternal health from becoming worse as a result of this disaster.

UNFPA’s long term efforts will be concentrated on preventing the already high rate of maternal deaths from significantly increasing as a result of this crisis. By preventing further increases in maternal mortality, UNFPA hopes that these efforts will continue to decrease maternal mortality over time.

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