Sri Lanka: UN agency boosts support for displaced pregnant women

7 May 2009

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said today it is stepping up support for women and girls affected by the conflict in northern Sri Lanka, particularly those who are pregnant, amid disruptions to reproductive health services caused by ongoing fighting.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said today it is stepping up support for women and girls affected by the conflict in northern Sri Lanka, particularly those who are pregnant, amid disruptions to reproductive health services caused by ongoing fighting.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 196,000 people have fled the conflict zone, a shrinking pocket of land on the north-east coastline, where clashes continue between Government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It estimates that at least 50,000 people are still trapped there.

UNFPA believes that at least 3,000 pregnant women have fled the fighting in recent days and some 350 of them will give birth in the next month.

“In this overwhelming situation, it is important that women's specific health concerns, from their hygiene needs to life-threatening complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, are not overlooked,” said UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka Lene K. Christiansen.

The agency noted that typically, around 15 per cent of women giving birth will develop complications that require blood transfusions or emergency surgical care. Pregnancy-related disabilities and death often rise in conflict situations when reproductive health services are disrupted, it said in a news release.

UNFPA is expanding its support for mobile reproductive health clinics offering pre-natal and post-natal care, services for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and psychosocial counselling. Since December 2008, 139 mobile clinic sessions have been conducted in Vavuniya and Mannar, serving 5,550 people.

In addition, the Fund will continue distributing personal hygiene packs for displaced women and girls, maternity kits for pregnant women, and reproductive health supplies for hospitals providing emergency life-saving care for pregnant women.

Furthermore, to ease overcrowding, UNFPA has furnished a ward at the Ayurvedic Hospital in Paipeymadu Vavuniya, where displaced mothers and newborns can receive post-delivery care.

UNFPA hopes to secure $1 million to increase its response, as part of the larger $50 million appeal launched this week by the Government of Sri Lanka and the UN to meet the most immediate humanitarian needs of civilians fleeing the fighting.

 

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Sri Lanka's displaced now numbers over 192,000, UN reports

The United Nations humanitarian wing said today that over 192,000 people have fled the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka, where clashes continue between Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).