Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters

by USA for UNFPA
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Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Help Pregnant Moms Give Birth Safely in Disasters
Dr. Olga Filipova  UNFPA/Andriy Kravchenko
Dr. Olga Filipova UNFPA/Andriy Kravchenko

BALAKLIYA, Ukraine – “When the war arrived in this area, the women and children tried to escape – from danger, hunger and the lack of medical services,” said Dr. Olga Filipova, an obstetrician and gynaecologist in a mobile maternity clinic in Ukraine.

Dr. Filipova provides medical help for women in remote areas of the war-torn Kharkiv region. The team reaches them through  a UNFPA mobile maternity clinic currently stationed in the city of Balakliya. Ukrianian forces recently retook the city. Although the shelling hasn’t stopped, people are beginning to trickle back. Many of the people returning are women and girls in dire need of health care.

“As the war rages on, this mobile clinic is going to be very useful,” explained Dr. Filipova. “Because even now that the government has regained control of the area and people are starting to return home, local medical facilities are still very low.”

Destruction and loss of infrastructure

The war has destroyed most health facilities and essential infrastructure in the region, including a UNFPA clinic that served nearby communities. Across Ukraine, services now concentrated in a vastly reduced number of health centers. For many, the mobile clinic is the only way they can receive urgent, lifesaving sexual and reproductive health care.

With their own electricity and water, staff in mobile clinics can perform even complex procedures like caesarian sections. Staff work comfortably and have all necessary medicines and supplies to ensure pregnant women survive childbirth.

“We provide broad assistance, from general visits and basic analysis to consultations on family planning, contraception and referrals to specialists. We refer pregnant women and the most severe cases to hospitals,” Dr. Filipova added. 

Sharp increase in health risks and complications

The World Health Organization estimates that some 688 medical facilities have been attacked since the war in Ukraine began. Ongoing power, water, and heating disruptions and treacherous roads have made it difficult to access the health services that are available, meaning millions of lives are at risk.

There are 80,000 women in the retaken territories, of whom more than 100 are pregnant in the Kharkiv region. 70 women will give birth within the next three months.

“Many women – including pregnant women – haven’t received adequate medical assistance for months, nor did older people with chronic diseases. As a result we are seeing some severe complications among pregnant women and an exacerbation of clinical conditions,”said Dr. Filipova. The most common among these are cervical cancer, diabetes and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

UNFPA has continued to open new health clinics and operate mental health mobile teams and helplines for survivors of violence. Since March 2022, more than 10,000 women and girls have received sexual and reproductive health services from UNFPA mobile clinics in Ukraine. Some 33,000 people had access to mental health services via helplines or mobile clinics.

Dangerous gaps in supplies and services

UNFPA will operate more than 30 mobile clinics across Ukraine in the coming weeks. This care will reach thousands of women and girls with the support they need, including safe delivery and postpartum care. The mobile team is also operating an ambulance at the now destroyed hospital in Izyum.

But logistics and supply chains are still facing lengthy disruptions. And with insecurity obstructing essential medical services, women and girls in Ukraine must overcome unprecedented challenges. 

Hundreds of thousands of isolated villages and towns have lost power and communications infrastructure, meaning those living there are struggling to seek help as they most desperately need it.


A destroyed hospital  UNFPA/Andriy Kravchenko
A destroyed hospital UNFPA/Andriy Kravchenko


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Ruchika's newborn
Ruchika's newborn

In the worst socio-economic crisis of Sri Lanka’s history, Ruchika and other pregnant women pay the price.  

When Ruchika found out that she was pregnant with her second child in October 2021, she could never have imagined that, hours before giving birth, she would be in a crowded line, begging for fuel to get to the hospital.  

“The majority of the crowd was sympathetic. The authorities allowed me to buy the fuel I needed after examining my medical documents to confirm my story, but there were still a few who were shouting at us,” remembers Ruchika.  

Before the crisis, 99 percent of births took place in a health care setting, but now, power outages, fuel shortages, medicine stockouts, and a lack of equipment have left the health care system crumbling. Pregnant women like Ruchika are among the most vulnerable.  

A gift of $15 provides 3 women with emergency birth kits, which contain everything a woman like Ruchika needs to prevent infection and safely give birth during an emergency. 

“I was worried about how bad things would get so I asked my doctor twice if my baby could be delivered safely even if it was two months early.”  

Two months before her due date, Ruchika began hearing stories about women needing to bring gloves, blades, and other basic medical supplies with them when they gave birth. The hospitals had run out and had no way to acquire more. Ruchika called her doctor to ask if she should also bring supplies and all he could tell her was that he had no idea what the situation would look like when it was time for her to give birth. That’s when Ruchika asked if she could deliver early.  

Shortages of medical supplies weren’t the only obstacle to Ruchika’s safe delivery. “The week before my delivery, my husband asked about my doctor’s fuel status because we’d heard so many stories of doctors and nurses not being able to report to work because of the fuel crisis,” she explained.  

$150 provides medications, supplies, and equiment to a rural health clinic, so staff at the clinic can provide essential care and manage obstetric emergencies. 

Luckily, Ruchika got the fuel she needed and safely delivered her baby at the hospital. But, weeks after giving birth, she is well past the date when her stitches should have been removed. The reason? Her doctor has to save his limited fuel resources for patients in active labor.  

Right now, we are scaling up resources in Sri Lanka to reach 215,000 pregnant women like Ruchika with lifesaving safe deliver care. 60,000 of these women will need surgery to survive childbirth.

You can equip a midwife to support 50 women like Mariel through safe deliveries with a generous gift of $400. 

Thanks to your ongoing support, we are there. 

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SAINT BERNARD, The Philippines – “Our house was gone, we could smell petrol fuel leaking from the fishing boats, and the wind was howling. I wanted to run to the mountains with my two young children.”

Fleeing her home at seven months pregnant wasn’t what 30-year-old Mariel had planned for her family during the Christmas festivities. But as Super Typhoon Rai barrelled down on the small fishing village of Saint Bernard, in the Southern Leyte province of the Philippines, it was her only option.

The third largest storm ever to hit the northern hemisphere, Rai demolished homes across the islands, splintering trees and forcing hundreds of thousands to run for their lives. Nearly four months on, many people are still without stable housing or access to food or medical care: Most health facilities remain obliterated, others hanging on by a thread. Health staff don’t have clinics to work in, while contraceptive supplies and medical equipment are sorely lacking.

A gift of $15 provides 3 women with emergency birth kits, which contain everything a woman needs to prevent infection and safely give birth during an emergency. 

UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem reflected after meeting with some of the women and girls affected: “A record number of people around the world are displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian crises don’t just leave communities upended, they also expose women and girls to greater levels of vulnerability. Disasters and conflict worsen gender inequalities, with women and girls paying the heaviest price.”

A rolling salvation

Providing sexual and reproductive health care can be dangerously jeopardized in a crisis setting, including prenatal and antenatal services, as infrastructure is destroyed and roads become impassable. Scarce if any access to health services leads to a rise in maternal and newborn deaths, spikes in sexual violence and, as a new UNFPA report shows, soaring rates of unintended pregnancies.

Increasingly anxious about giving birth in the midst of a disaster zone, Mariel’s hopes were lifted when she spotted an unusual vehicle in town. “One day, a white truck was parked in the community, and someone told me they had health services there. I didn’t believe them, but eventually I went, and my worries were gone,” she said, relieved at the arrival of skilled health staff and new medical equipment. 

$150 provides medications, supplies, and equiment to a rural health clinic, so staff at the clinic can provide essential care and manage obstetric emergencies. 

The white truck is a UNFPA-supported Women’s Health on Wheels vehicle, a mobile birthing facility deployed to hard-to-reach areas and during humanitarian emergencies. The rapid response mobile units are the default set-up when basic emergency obstetric and newborn care services are disrupted. Based in the centre of Saint Bernard, the truck has become a beacon of survival and hope for many of the vulnerable women and girls in the community.

The mobile units are a key part of UNFPA’s response, which as of March 31 had reached nearly 14,000 women and girls in affected areas with sexual and reproductive health and protection services. This includes distributing dignity kits containing sanitation, menstrual and hygiene products, as well as providing emergency maternity tents and setting up safe spaces where survivors and those at risk of gender-based violence can go to seek help and support. In Southern Leyte alone, UNFPA has so far supported over 1,000 safe deliveries and ensured more than 1,700 family planning consultations. 

A crisis within a crisis

Observing the devastation brought on by the storm, Dr. Kanem continued: “With the Philippines ranking as one of the countries most prone to crises – from conflict to earthquakes and typhoons – millions of the most vulnerable people, particularly women and girls, are facing multiple layers of risk.”

An estimated 400 lives were lost during the typhoon and more than half a million people displaced, of which some 60,000 have yet to return to their homes – if they still have them. Over 11 million people were affected by the storm; among them are 4 million women of reproductive age, 1.4 million adolescent girls and a quarter of a million women who are currently pregnant. 

While the statistics are grim, Dr. Kanem added there is a solution – by listening to and investing in women. Their leadership and resilience bring communities together as they spearhead efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

On 14 February, Mariel became the first woman to give birth in the mobile health unit. She told us she had named her new daughter Heart Eunne Fae: Heart for being born on Valentine’s day, and Eunne Fae as a tribute to UNFPA. When Dr. Kanem asked about her wish for Eunne Fae, Mariel replied: “Brighter skies, a roof over her head, and a better life than what we have now. And to live in a world where she can grow up without fear and become a girl who can bring change to our community.”

You can equip a midwife to support 50 women like Mariel through safe deliveries with a generous gift of $400. 

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Seema attends a prenatal appointment.
Seema attends a prenatal appointment.

24 year-old Seema moved with her three daughters to be closer to her parents during the pandemic. Sadly, her youngest daughter died because Seema couldn't access infant health services. Now, pregnant for the fourth time, Seema attends a clinic for prenatal care. When she's ready to give birth, she can also receive safe delivery care. And, her newborn will have access to infant health services. 

$20 provides one midwife with the equipment she needs to ensure women like Seema can give birth safely, no matter what.

Seema is not alone in needing this lifesaving care. Noor, the senior midwive at Seema's clinic, and her colleagues see 500 patients every day. "Hundreds of women visit the facility every day. I sometimes feel tired but these women need us. When we help them, we forget our pain," said Noor. 

$150 provides a rural clinic with supplies, medications, and equipment to manage most obstetric emergencies. 

Thanks to your support, Seema is having a healthy pregnancy and is hopeful for a safe delivery. And, your support makes it possible for her little one to receive the health care they need. No woman should have to experience what Seema did. Thank you. 

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Dr. Cairen provides prenatal care to a patient.
Dr. Cairen provides prenatal care to a patient.

Even though Dr. Cairen had been caring for pregnant women and new moms in northwest China for more than a decade, she didn't have all of the skills of a midwife. After participating in a UNFPA training course, she feels even more confident in her abilities and prepared to care for women. She says, "As a doctor working in the field, I carry out multiple tasks including attending births, procuring medicines, and providing outpatient services such as cervical and breast cancer screening.”

Just $15 provides three pregnant women with an emergency birth kit, which has all of the essentials for safe childbirth, even without a health care professional like Dr. Cairen.

One of the skills Dr. Cairen learned was how to manage pregnancy complications. This was important for one of Dr. Cairen's recent patients, who gave birth at age 41. Because the woman was able to deliver at her local clinic, her delivery was free. And, when barriers like cost and travel are eliminated, more women get the care they need to have a safe delivery. 

For $150, you can supply a rural health clinic with the medications and equipment it needs to provide pregnant women with prenatal and safe delivery care, even in the event of complications.

Dr. Cairen has seen this change, too. She observed that her patients are more comfortable and that she is able to provide quality care to more women and families. This is the work you make possible. Thank you. 

$400 equips one maternity ward and midwife with the resources they need to support 50 women through safe deliveries. 

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Location: New York, NY - USA
Project Leader:
Olivia Ryan
NY, NY United States
$41,610 raised of $98,000 goal
1,184 donations
$56,390 to go
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