News

Life-saving services critical in humanitarian response

19 August 2016

Today, World Humanitarian Day, the United Nations Population Fund reminds us as individuals, as communities and or as nations as a whole, that life-saving services in humanitarian and fragile settings are just as critical as food, water and shelters are to people.

With the Pacific region facing more climatic phenomenon of increased intensity that threaten our lives and island community livelihoods, it is important to remember that ensuring good sexual and reproductive health and lived reproductive rights has to be part of preparedness.

A healthy population will be a resilient one and by extension, key to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals is stronger action to protect the rights of people and meet their needs in humanitarian and fragile settings.

The Pacific recently made waves at the World Humanitarian Summit where more than 3,000 individual and joint commitments to support the Agenda for Humanity were made.

Among these were commitments to women, girls and young people to protect their sexual and reproductive health and rights and to prevent and respond to gender-based violence - the UNFPA is working with partners to turn these commitment into action.

Having more than 150 offices across the world has facilitated UNFPA's targeted action post-natural disasters, working with local partners to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.

Cyclone Winston response

Together with the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT), UNFPA contributed to the Cyclone Winston Flash Appeal and worked with relevant government and national NGO partners to ensure women and girls, most of whom are usually at the forefront as first responders, are also provided for.

Women and girls are more vulnerable in emergencies and have specific needs that are often ignored in crises. They need services for safe pregnancy and childbirth, and protection from gender violence. Securing their safety and ensuring their dignity and health promotes the well-being of families and communities.

By working with communities to incorporate gender-sensitive approaches in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, UNFPA Pacific Sub-Regional Office partnered with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services' (MOHMS) Family Health Unit in the distribution of dignity kits for women, comprising a sulu, toothpaste and toothbrush, panties, a towel, a pair of flip-flops, a torch, mosquito coil, soap power and bath soap, combs, tee-shirts, condoms and a ziplock bag in which important documents could be stored. A total of 4000 dignity kits were made available to most affected women and girls.

Through 8 Women-Friendly Spaces UNFPA Pacific established in Rakiraki, Ba, Korovou and Savusavu in support of the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, more than 10,000 women were able to receive reproductive information and health care. Australia DFAT's generous support and partnership with UNFPA enabled the Women Friendly Spaces in Ba province.

Some 4000 men and women benefitted from sexual and reproductive health awareness sessions in health facilities and outreach mission and with local partners, Empower Pacific and the Fiji Women's Crisis Center, the services at the women-friendly spaces included psycho-social support

A unique approach the UNFPA Pacific supported post-Cyclone Winston was the re-engagement of 33 retired midwives through the MOHMS; the retired midwives were stationed in health facilities (17), women friendly spaces (8) and were part of mobile outreach teams (8).

Medical response teams having retired midwives meant people, particularly women and adolescent girls in hard-to-reach areas benefitted from an experienced health worker imparting sexual and reproductive health and rights information, conducting pap-smears and counselling them on family planning options.

UNFPA Pacific also secured 12 different types of inter-agency health kits and contributed more than nine tonnes of supplies to national partners to promote dignity, safety and reproductive health for women and girls most affected by Winston.

World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day has been observed on August 19 every year since 2008; apart from reminding the global population of lessons learnt in the different aspects of humanitarian action so as to improve our collective responses, it is also a day that acknowledges aid workers who risk their lives daily to deliver humanitarian services, while remembering their colleagues who have died during responses.

"We call for global solidarity and stand together with everyone affected by crisis; we unite as one humanity," Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director said on a statement.

"Every woman deserves a safe birth. Yet every day more than 500 women and adolescent girls die of pregnancy and childbirth in humanitarian and fragile settings. Access to services, delivering safely, preventing unintended pregnancy and being safe from HIV are just as crucial as food, water and shelter.

"Our focus goes beyond meeting immediate needs to reducing risk, building peace, strengthening resilience and supporting long-term development."