With health systems in parts of West Africa devastated by the Ebola outbreak, 1.1 million pregnant women in the region may have nowhere to turn. Without proper access to prenatal care, emergency obstetric services, and trained healthcare professionals, maternal deaths will rise dramatically. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is helping by training and deploying midwives, distributing emergency birth kits, and increasing access to family planning.
In March of 2014, an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus was reported in Guinea. The disease quickly spread to nearby West African countries. By the end of 2014, the outbreak had infected an estimated 20,000 people, and killed over 7,900. Strained health systems have left many without access to essential health services, including reproductive health care. Without the proper supplies and care, more than 120,000 women could die of complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
In the three most-affected countries - Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone - UNFPA is training and deploying healthcare professionals such as midwives to support safe deliveries. UNFPA is working with NGO and community-based partners to rebuild health systems in the region so women feel safe giving birth in healthcare facilities.
Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were once some of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth. While maternal death rates have been reduced in recent years, all progress stands to be lost in the wake of the Ebola epidemic. By working locally to repair health systems in the region, UNFPA will put these countries back on track to ensuring that every birth is safe.