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in brief: UNFPA focus on women’s health and safety in aftermath of typhoon haiyan

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As the Philippines struggles to deal with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which ripped through the country two weeks ago, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is focusing on re-establishing women’s health and safety services.

The nation’s death toll stands at 5,200 people and is expected to rise. Millions of others have been displaced, resulting in a majority of women being left particularly vulnerable.

According to the UNFPA press release, over 3.2 million women and girls of reproductive age within the Philippines are still in need of urgent care and protection.  ‘The UNFPA estimates that there are currently 230 000 pregnant women in affected areas, while 825 women are giving birth every day with very limited access to emergency obstetric care.’

Funds from the UNFPA program will be contributed to providing emergency maternity care and facilities in the Philippines, including the establishment of temporary birthing facilities and theatres. Women and girls of reproductive age will also be given access to basic hygiene items along with access to reproductive health care services.

In addition to these health concerns, the UNFPA has highlighted the increased risk of sexual violence towards women in the Philippines as a result of the Typhoon. According to the UNFPA Press release, ‘based on national data, approximately 375,000 women and girls in their lifetime would have experienced sexual violence in the affected areas prior to the disaster. Without adequate attention and protection measures, this number could increase by 65,000.’

Furthermore, there is a heightened risk of women and young girls being trafficked due to their desperation for aid and alternative livelihoods. The UNFPA also aims to combat this risk by deploying extra female police officers and reconstructing safe havens in various regions throughout the country.

‘In the rush to provide assistance, women and girls were invisible,’ says Ms. Ugochi Daniels, Chief of UNFPA’s Humanitarian Response, ‘We now must ensure that their needs are met so that every woman and every girl affected by Typhoon Haiyan is protected and lives with dignity.’

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