UNITED NATIONS, New York – With nearly one million people currently displaced throughout North and Western Iraq, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, warns that about 250,000 women and girls, including nearly 60,000 pregnant women, are in need of urgent care. While an estimated 225 women will give birth every day, approximately 1,000 pregnant women each month will encounter life-threatening complications.
As the conflict escalates and security worsens, UNFPA is concerned that, as in any emergency, the vulnerability of women and girls to gender-based violence and exploitation will increase. According to estimates, 20,000 women and girls could face an increased risk of sexual violence.
“We must not wait for cases to be counted comprehensively and documented in detail before we act,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “We must act immediately to ensure that women and girls are protected from sexual violence.”
As health facilities are overstretched, UNFPA also expects that the number of unassisted childbirths may rise. As part of an assessment of the Erbil Maternity Hospital, UNFPA noted that the caseload has doubled since the beginning of the crisis, to up to 20 Caesarean cases every day – from 8 to 10 cases prior to the crisis – and more than 50 normal deliveries. Because of serious shortages in supplies, beds and staff, women who had delivered were being discharged from the maternity after just three hours.
In response to the crisis, UNFPA has provided the Erbil Maternity Hospital with reproductive health and delivery kits containing medical supplies to cater for emergency obstetric care for 1,200 deliveries. However, without additional resources, these kits will only meet needs for a few weeks. UNFPA has also deployed social workers in the Khazar Camp to support the specific needs of pregnant women and provide referrals as needed.
In addition, more than 2,000 women and girls are receiving basic hygiene supplies through the delivery of UNFPA’s women dignity kits (containing items such as underwear, soap and sanitary pads) in two camps and host communities in Dohuk Governorate. Safe spaces for women and services to address gender-based violence are also being established in camps.
“We are redirecting our resources, including our surge capacity and available stocks,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “However, given the potential enormity of this crisis, we would require financial assistance in order to be able to sustain and scale up our humanitarian activities and those of our partners.”
UNFPA estimates that it will require $6.5 million to provide for the needs of over 200,000 women and girls affected by the crisis by offering reproductive health care services, psychosocial support and activities to raise awareness about gender-based violence.