News

Cyclone Pam cripples sexual and reproductive health services in Vanuatu

19 March 2015

UNFPA Pacific, Vanuatu/Fiji (March 19, 2015) - A demand for reproductive health services including family planning and antenatal care has been identified by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Pacific Sub-Regional Office, as critically life-saving for women in Cyclone Pam-stricken Port Vila, in Vanuatu.

Continuing telecommunication challenges and substantial infrastructural damage to medical facilities mean women are not aware which services are still available or accessible.

The UNFPA team on the ground is working with Ministry of Health to mobilize health outreach to pregnant and lactating women.

With preliminary assessments now confirming substantive damage to Tanna's maternity and pediatrics wards, the UNFPA expects a significant increase in maternal health and sexual and reproductive health needs in the next few months of recovery.

Tanna is one of the five provinces outside Efate where the capital is located; similar reports are expected from the other provinces.

Claire Davies, a New Zealand Voluntary Services Abroad volunteer working with UNFPA Pacific and based in Port Vila is actively involved in ongoing national assessments.

"There is a lot of demand for family planning services and because ante-natal clinics are closed, we know that this will be the first areas to address as soon as we are able to proceed; the final assessments are still coming in," Ms Davies who is the Family Planning and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Specialist, said.

"The main hospital is open and running, there have been 41 births since the cyclone, eight overnight, though with skeletal staff. We have received reports of people asking for contraceptives especially condoms as majority of community clinics remain shut."

UNFPA Programme Analyst Gideon Mael said the number of people at evacuation centers have decreased.

"There is already a lot of mobility as people have begun to rebuild, with whatever they can collect. People want to resume some sense of normality," Mr Mael said.

"The evacuation centers provide water and food so they return to the centers in the evenings to sleep in safety and eat."

The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Fiji Osnat Lubrani has been appointed Humanitarian Coordinator for Vanuatu. So far, two midwives, of the eight requested by the Government of Vanuatu, have arrived.

UNFPA Pacific Representative and Director Dr Laurent Zessler said the United Nations and their development partners will ascertain priority actions once final assessments come in.

"For an inclusive recovery, it is imperative that women and girls are not forgotten in the international humanitarian response," Dr Zessler said.

For more information, please contact:

Port Vila, Vanuatu
Gideon Mael, Programme Analyst on +678 7774412
Claire Davies, Family Planning & Youth Sexual Reproductive Health Specialist on + 678 5433557

Suva, Fiji
Ariela Zibiah, Communication Analyst, on +679 8682097