Reproductive Health

Haiti Quake Puts 63,000 Pregnant Women at Risk

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Haiti earthquake has increased the risks for an estimated 63,000 pregnant women in Port-au-Prince, as medical facilities and supplies have been destroyed. The UNFPA is distributing delivery and 'dignity' kits to help minimize the damage.

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Maintaining Dignity Essential

With many medical facilities destroyed, it's harder for Haitian women to deliver their babies safely."We forget that women need to maintain their dignity in a post-crisis situation," said Mahmood. "Girls and women continue to menstruate and don't need to have soiled clothes."

Haiti's health care system took a huge hit in the earthquake, as many hospitals and clinics in the capital were damaged or destroyed. It's not currently known how many people in Haiti's Ministry of Health survived. Hospitals and clinics that are still functioning are overwhelmed with those seeking treatment from serious injuries. Meanwhile, medical supplies are still scarce, despite huge international relief efforts.

The U.N. hopes to bring in more medical supplies soon by air, as well as by road, through the Dominican Republic.

During this crisis, some pregnant women have been forced to give birth without medical supervision and in an unclean environment. Many women who survived the earthquake are now living in makeshift tents, made from bed sheets and sticks, according to the UNFPA. Some doctors have reported doing Caesarean sections and deliveries on park benches while they waited for their hospital's maternity ward to reopen on Jan. 18.

Rebecca Harshbarger is a journalist based in New York. She runs an independent news site for East African immigrants in the diaspora at www.ugandansabroad.org and blogs at www.ugandabeat.wordpress.com. You can follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/rebeccaugust.

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Some inspirational work was done by aid agencies during the height of the Haiti crisis which provided a lifesaving financial edge for those affected, but we have to ask - what it being done for women in Haiti several months down the road? Aid at the point of need for these pregnant women was admirable, but as soon as a child is born, so many new issues arise and have to be dealt with.

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