Maternal Health Care Struggles for Survival after Typhoon Haiyan

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Pregnant women who survived the typhoon still face other life-threatening risks. Photo © OCHA/Joey Reyna

MANILA, Philippines (IRIN) — The massive destruction of health care facilities, with disruption to access and delivery as well as protracted displacement caused by Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) will further undermine precarious maternal health provision in the Philippines, warn experts.

“Before the typhoon, 60 per cent of women were delivering in [health care] facilities—this will drop drastically. There will be more deliveries… [without] skilled birth attendants [present], and more unintended pregnancies. We expect to see a regression in the progress that we have made in maternal health care,” said Ugochi Daniels, chief of the humanitarian branch of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in New York, currently on assignment in the Philippines.

According to the recently released Multi-Cluster/Sector Rapid Assessment (MIRA), produced by more than 40 agencies across nine provinces, damage to health facilities varied from 50 to 90 per cent in typhoon-affected areas.

Emergency deployment of local and foreign health workers has helped fill the gap. But these health care services treat mainly trauma injuries and do not address the needs of the estimated 292,000 pregnant women affected by Typhoon Haiyan, who need urgent maternal and newborn health services. The number was calculated by multiplying 11.2 million, the total number of affected people, by 2.6 percent, the country’s annual crude birth rate.

“At the onset of an emergency, in the rush to provide hygiene, water and sanitation, and relief food to the general population, the special needs of pregnant women are overlooked,” said Daniels. Approximately 3.6 million women and girls of reproductive age are among the affected, according to the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

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