What happens when a natural disaster, like flood, strikes? Houses are inundated, livelihoods lost, families lost, women and children separated?horror strikes from all sides. And what comes to our mind when we talk about relief during disasters? - Food? Water? Shelter? What about Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH)? Do we give it enough thought?if not, then it is high time we did! Women, young girls and boys are left homeless and are the most vulnerable during such situations.
More than a third of maternal deaths worldwide occur in crisis settings. In crisis situations, there is a lack of access to basic emergency-obstetric services and only a small proportion of deliveries are attended by skilled service providers, leading to preventable maternal and newborn morbidity. Young girls and boys are also at the danger of STIs, HIV and human trafficking. It is but, a grim reality that the risk of sexual assault, coercion and exploitation increases whenever social order breaks down and people are displaced.
Temporary camps too can pose a great risk for women and girls who venture out alone to finish the daily chores. Crowding and lack of privacy can lead to gender-based violence. Accessing ante-natal and post-natal care too becomes a challenge.
With health facilities in a dire situation and buildings inundated, pregnant women and new mothers find it extremely difficult to access quality healthcare.
This is where International Planned Parenthood Federation's (IPPF's) SPRINT initiative (Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme in Crisis and Post-Crisis Situations) comes into action. IPPF through the SPRINT Initiative works on providing key medical and SRH services to the affected population.
According to government data, slow moving monsoon depression had caused lethal amounts of rain in Bangladesh on July 29, apart from forming cyclone storm Komen, which drenched the already submerged districts of the country. The heavy floods were followed by mudslides.
As per reports, more than 200,000 people have been affected, out of which an estimated 25 per cent are women of reproductive age, 20 per cent men are sexually active, and we are reaching out to these people with key SRH services.
IPPF-SPRINT along with its Member Association-Family Planning Association of Bangladesh (FPAB) is working closely with partners like UNFPA, government and other stake holders to implement the MISP including family planning services.
In Bangladesh, we are working with FPAB in the districts of Cox's Bazar and Bandarban.
IPPF, FPAB and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are working with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief and planning a co-ordinated effort to provide SRH services to the affected population.
Maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality is preventable even during disasters, we just need to wake up to the fact that SRH is a priority and it is everybody's right.
IPPF is world's leading provider of sexual and reproductive health, and through this assistance which is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Australian government, the organisation is trying to re-affirm the need for a movement to prioritise SRH during emergencies.
Anjali Sen is Regional Director,
South Asia Region, IPPF