Haiti Response Must Address Health Needs of Women and Girls

Reproductive Health Response in Crises Consortium

January 27, 2010

As a consortium of organizations dedicated to the promotion of health among all persons affected by crisis, we applaud relief efforts to provide water, sanitation, food, and medicines in Haiti. We also call on humanitarian actors to provide lifesaving reproductive health services for women displaced by the earthquake.

There are approximately 63,000 pregnant women in Port-au-Prince, 7000 of whom will deliver in the coming month. Further, 15% (9450 women) of all pregnant women will also require care for life-threatening pregnancy complications.[1,2] Newborns are at even higher risk. [Note: The crude birth rate (CBR) for Haiti in 2007 was 28 births per 1000 population.[1] The 7000 deliveries in 1 month has been calculated using a CBR of 2.8%; however, reproductive health procurement guidelines[2] recommend using a CBR of 4% (at 10,000 deliveries/month) to ensure adequate supplies. It is known that 15% of all pregnant women will experience some form of complication during pregnancy that will require a medical intervention.]

Action:

  • Give clean delivery kits to all visibly pregnant women ;

  • Establish services to treat pregnancy complications, including emergency cesarean deliveries ; and

  • Ensure referrals to these services.

In crises like this, the risk for sexual violence and exploitation increases, especially for women and girls. Treatment within 3 days of an assault can prevent HIV infection, and treatment within 5 days can prevent pregnancy.

Action:

  • Provide immediate access to clinical care for survivors of sexual violence including emergency contraception and postexposure prophylaxis against HIV;

  • Prevent sexual violence and exploitation, and enable vulnerable people to access services safely; and

  • Support local resources to protect vulnerable people, especially single women and unaccompanied children.

HIV prevalence among men and women of reproductive age in Haiti is 2.2%.[3] This crisis puts people at risk for infection through exposure to blood and body fluids and unprotected sex. In addition, people currently taking antiretroviral agents could develop resistance or become ill if their treatment is disrupted.

Action:

  • Distribute condoms widely and at no cost;

  • Ensure continued antiretroviral treatment of infected people, especially pregnant women who are at risk of transmitting the virus to their babies;

  • Always practice standard precautions to avoid HIV infection when there is potential exposure to blood and body fluids; and

  • Screen all blood products and provide clean safe blood transfusions.

In a natural disaster, women are often unable to access their usual methods of family planning. Unwanted pregnancy can lead to unsafe abortion, illness, disability, and death.

Action:

  • Provide easy access to free contraceptives.

We know that this disaster will have long-term consequences, but there are actions we can take to reduce its impact on the lives of women and their families. Work with a lead agency and local partners to coordinate reproductive health services, ensure integration across sectors, and plan for comprehensive reproductive health service delivery.

For further guidance, please refer to the synopsis of the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for reproductive health, MISP advocacy sheet, Health Resources Availability Mapping System (HeRAMS), and a MISP checklist. Other resources include the Health Cluster Guide of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings.

This content was republished from www.rhrc.org with permission from the Reproductive Health Response in Crises Consortium.

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