UN Agency Seeks 'Urgent Response' to Women's Needs

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, says it is particularly concerned about the health and hygiene needs of women affected by South Asia's tsunami disaster.

"Among the 5 million people directly affected in the region, there are at least 150,000 women who are currently pregnant or who may be facing complications of pregnancy," UNFPA said in a press release.

The agency estimates that 50,000 women affected by the disaster will give birth in the next three months, but it says the damage to health facilities and the displacement of midwives has jeopardized pregnant women's chances of delivering babies in "clean and safe circumstances."

And it's not just pregnant women: UNFPA noted that women and girls have "particular hygiene needs which must be considered if they are to be able to carry on their daily lives with dignity, yet these needs are often overlooked in the larger emergency response."

Some women lack basic clothing, UNFPA said -- "yet, in many cases, it is women and girls who assume the primary burden of caring for other family members and for obtaining the survival needs for the family."

UNFPA, which describes itself as the world's largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programs, said it is providing $3 million for basic maternity and hygiene services in its "initial response" to the tsunami disaster.

It is asking donors for additional funds to help reestablish basic reproductive health care and psychosocial support services.

In the longer term, UNFPA said it will help rebuild and replenish devastated health facilities, and reestablish full maternity and reproductive health services.

In July, the Bush administration said it would withhold $34 million from UNFPA for condoning forced abortion and sterilization in China.

See Related Stories:
Decision Not to Fund UNFPA Highlights Bush-Kerry Divide (19 July 2004)
Congress Prepares for Battle Over UN Population Fund Money (14 July 2004)

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