Pregnancy in times of crisis

The other day I read an article that got me thinking. The article, by Cleo Fatoorehchi. was entitled “Pregnancies Don’t Wait for Emergencies to End,” the gist of it being that when societies are ravaged by disasters- earthquakes, tsunamis, floods- pregnant women often pay a very high price. Of course this makes sense. The humanitarian response usually focuses on immediate necessities like providing emergency medical care, food, and temporary shelter- and of course these are all essential essential services. But there has been a lack of support services for women in the wake of disasters. Armed conflict or natural disaster leaves a vulnerable population of women even more exposed to harm.

The U.N. Population Fund and Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) have developed an updated version of the Inter-Agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings to help address the gap in care for pregnant women in times of crisis. The manual is designed for doctors and midwives, as well as for policymakers and donors and offers guidance for both immediate and long term reproductive health service. So not only is there information on how to care for pregnant women in resource-limited settings, there is information about family planning services and how women can protect themselves from contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Providing sustainable care for women- pregnant or otherwise- in the aftermath of a crisis is clearly a challenging goal, and one that won’t be solved by a manual. But the updated manual signals awareness of the issue that is an important step in the right direction.

Photo credit: Life Magazine

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