UNFPA PREPARES TO AID PREGNANT IRAQI WOMEN
The UNFPA is working to ensure that pregnant women (about one in five
of childbearing age) can give birth safely in a clean environment and
receive emergency obstetric care if needed.
The Fund has deployed life-saving equipment -- including mobile
obstetric care-surgery units, ambulances and ultrasound scanners -- as
as antibiotics and other drugs, clean delivery and post-natal care
sanitary supplies, contraceptives and other reproductive health
needed for safe motherhood.
Iraqi women and children have been severely affected by the damage to
health system caused by years of conflict and international sanctions.
Maternal mortality has more than trebled, rising from 117 deaths per
live births in the late 1980s to the current 370. Infant and under-five
mortality have also risen sharply.
Military conflict will further jeopardize the health of displaced women
are pregnant. These women will face enormous risks -- including an
increased likelihood of miscarriage, premature delivery, and
of pregnancy and childbirth -- compounded by a lack of access to health
professionals and care.
Pregnancy and birthing complications are generally the leading causes of
death for displaced women and girls in times of upheaval, as
health information and services, such as assisted delivery, prenatal
and post-partum care, become unavailable.
To prepare for a quick response to a conflict, the Fund has
basic reproductive health supplies inside Iraq, including equipment
35 mobile health units and four referral-level facilities to serve
internally displaced persons. The UNFPA has deployed a chief of
to the United Nations humanitarian coordination centre in Cyprus.
In neighbouring countries, the UNFPA is working to address the
influx of refugees from Iraq. The Fund is closely coordinating with
national authorities, other international agencies and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) to ensure that reproductive health concerns are
included in emergency response operations.
-- In Jordan, for example, the UNFPA has provided the Government with
delivery supplies and trained staff to deliver emergency reproductive
obstetric care, including psychological and trauma counselling.
-- Mobile health units and basic reproductive health supplies have been
provided to the Government of Syria, where the UNFPA has employed
personnel to coordinate the humanitarian response.
In Iran, the UNFPA has opened an office, staffed with an emergency
coordinator and support personnel, in Kermanshah, one of the western
provinces expected to receive the bulk of new Iraqi refugees.
-- The Fund has positioned reproductive health supplies in Diyarbakir in
Turkey, and will also strengthen the logistics and supply system and
establish a referral system for reproductive health services.
The UNFPA is also responsible for data collection and analysis on behalf
the United Nations regional team addressing the Iraq crisis.
The Fund is closely coordinating this work with other United Nations
agencies and major national and international NGOs, including the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,
International Rescue Committee, Reproductive Health for Refugees
Médecins du Monde, Enfants du Monde, Première Urgence, Médecins sans
frontiers, and CARE.
To continue these efforts and expand them as conditions allow, the UNFPA
asking international donors for $5 million for the next six months.
The UNFPA, the world's largest multilateral source of population
has been active in Iraq since 1972 (with brief interruption in the early
1990s), working to improve access to reproductive health and
services. As a result of its efforts, the number of primary health-care
facilities providing reproductive health services increased from 37 in
to 146 in 2001.
For more information, please contact: William Ryan, in New York, tel.: 1-212-297-5279, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Ziad Rifai, in Amman, mobile: +962 (7) 777-0000, e-mail: email@example.com; or visit UNFPA's Web site at www.unfpa.org.