The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is distributing reproductive healthcare kits as part of efforts to save lives of pregnant women and those with newborns as the humanitarian crisis caused by the drought and ensuing famine takes its toll on communities in Somalia, some parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.
The kits include hygiene items like sanitary pads, underwear and soap. Because of the strict dress codes for women in Somalia, headscarves are also included in these kits to ensure women’s mobility so that they can walk to food distribution centres without fear of being attacked by Islamic extremists.
Over 3,500 kits have already been distributed in north and northeastern Kenya.
Medical equipment and dignity kits will also be distributed to the affected population.
“We are deeply concerned by the gravity of the situation in the region. We call upon the international community to urgently look after the unique needs of pregnant women and mothers whose families’ survival are particularly at risk,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin.
Given that 80 per cent of refugees in the region are women and children, UNFPA is focusing on providing care for pregnant women and lactating mothers.
“The small income that women may have is mostly used for limited day-to-day food supplies, making healthcare a last priority for their families. UNFPA is therefore distributing dignity kits in affected regions to address women’s unique needs,” he said.
With the drought predicted to persist in the region with a worse prolonged resultant famine in the foreseeable future, UNFPA is drawing long term strategy for its support to the region.
In addition to insecurity posed by warring groups that have made delivery of humanitarian supplies difficult, Somalia is facing hunger resulting from a prolonged drought that is putting the lives of children and pregnant women at risk.
The lives of unborn babies depend heavily on their mothers’ capacity after birth to feed and provide for them. When a woman suffers from hunger and exhaustion, her child’s survival is at risk.
In addition, pregnant women need a balanced diet to keep strong and reduce pregnancy-related complications that lead to maternal deaths and infant illness.
Experts estimate that eliminating malnutrition among mothers can reduce disabilities in infants by almost one third.
UNFPA country offices in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are implementing the emergency measures that will deliver the supplies to women in the refugee camps in the respective countries.
Kenya is hosting one of the largest refugee camps for Somalis fleeing hunger and fighting in ther country. The Dadaab refugee camp is currently hosting nearly 380,000 refugees, making it the largest in the world.
The overcrowding at Dadaab is already overstretching the camp’s servives but especially the health services. That is why UNFPA is working with local partners to provide targeted reproductive healthcare to those in urgent need.
Moreover, women, young girls and boys in such situations are increasingly vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation, including trafficking.
UNFPA is ensuring that medial and psychosocial services are provided to survivors of sexual violence.