UN Population Fund launches emergency effort to save Afghan women

UN Population Fund launches emergency effort to save Afghan women

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced today that it has started sending relief supplies to Iran and emergency funds to agency field offices in the region as part of its largest-ever humanitarian operation - a $4.5 million bid to stem the grave health crisis now facing Afghan women.

UNFPA is working to reduce the risks caused by lack of shelter, food and medical care facing thousands of pregnant women who are among the displaced Afghan civilians now massed along the country's borders.

To provide Afghan women with lifesaving reproductive health care services, the Fund is working to pre-position emergency relief supplies in the countries bordering Afghanistan. These are intended both for the large anticipated influx of refugees and for distribution inside Afghanistan, if possible.

"Without swift action on the part of donors and relief agencies, a terribly high number of Afghan women and girls are likely to die from easily treatable pregnancy complications," said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid. "UNFPA's highest priority is to ensure that women have access to a safe delivery environment and are protected against sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and violence."

The Fund's initial effort aims to include supplies to facilitate obstetrical care and protect essential hygiene, support for border area hospitals receiving referrals with pregnancy and childbirth complications, and counselling for victims of trauma. Longer-term assistance after the emergency phase will include training for local health-care providers and basic health education for women and young people.