Friday, January 29, 2010
Relief Efforts in Haiti and Women's Reproductive Health
Following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, relief agencies, multilateral institutions and governments are increasingly shifting their focus from emergency response to longer term relief, rebuilding and development efforts. Given the scale of the disaster, many thousands of Haitians will likely be forced to live in camps or other makeshift arrangements for years, if not decades, to come. During this time of displacement, the health and lives of Haiti’s women and girls—many of whom were already in a precarious situation because of poverty or low social status—are threatened by severe living conditions, including the virtual absence of reproductive health services.
Most immediately, there is an urgent need for clean delivery kits to ensure that childbirth is safe for mothers and their newborns. Likewise, displaced women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation, and proper care—including emergency contraception and HIV prophylaxis—must be made widely available to any victims of sexual violence. Also, the many Haitian women who find themselves cut off from their usual sources for family planning services and supplies, including condoms, must be provided with free contraceptives. A failure to address these needs heightens the risk for unwanted pregnancy and botched abortion, HIV and other STIs, and high-risk, life-threatening pregnancies and childbirth. . . .