BALOCHISTAN, — “I walked for about 35 kilometres while in labour because the floods had damaged the road between my village and the hospital,” Bakhtnama Khairullah, 32, of Harnai, Balochistan province, explained.
Her area was among the first to be impacted by the unprecedented monsoon rains that have engulfed one-third of the country.
Even on dry days, the mountainous terrain Ms. Khairullah trekked through is dangerous; for a woman in labour in floodwaters, it was lethal.
Ms. Khairullah, who is now recovering at home after giving birth to healthy twins on September 10 at the Harnai maternity hospital, considers herself fortunate: The devastating floods and landslides are estimated to have displaced 7.6 million people, with at least 1,500 people killed and millions losing their homes and means of feeding their families.
Over 1,400 health facilities in Balochistan and Sindh provinces have been damaged or destroyed, including the maternity hospital where Ms. Khairullah gave birth.
Dr. Sarmad Saeed Khan, a maternal, neonatal, and infant health specialist, works at the hospital with community midwives on a UNFPA-supported project, including those who helped Ms. Khairullah.
“The midwives are working day and night tirelessly to provide maternity care and reproductive services during this emergency. They’re doing heroic work ensuring safe deliveries for the flood-affected women coming to the hospital,” he said.
The worst floods in Pakistan’s history. The floods have affected over 30 million people, with 6.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
More than 1.6 million women of reproductive age are among them, with nearly 130,000 pregnant women in need of immediate health care. In the midst of the crisis, more than 42,000 women are due to give birth in the next three months.
“Without immediate support and access to medical and health services, these women’s lives will be in great jeopardy,” said Dr. Bakhtior Kadirov, UNFPA’s acting representative in Pakistan.
Not only have the floods destroyed buildings, but they have also rendered water and electricity sources unsafe for use, and medical supplies and equipment have been washed away.
Many vulnerable people have been cut off from health centres and hospitals, and supply routes have been disrupted by the destruction of more than 12,000 kilometres of roads and hundreds of bridges connecting remote areas to essential services.
Pregnant women are being treated in temporary camps wherever possible. Women and children, many of whom are malnourished and suffering from water-borne diseases such as cholera, malaria, and dysentery, have been queuing for hours to receive medical attention.
UNFPA expands emergency response
In the face of significant logistical challenges, UNFPA has established a mobile health service to assist people in displacement camps and refer complicated cases to accessible hospitals.
UNFPA is also supplying affected areas with hospital tents and life-saving supplies, allowing vital health services such as skilled midwifery assistance and emergency obstetric care to continue.
Meanwhile, over 8,000 dignity kits containing hygiene supplies such as soap and menstrual pads, as well as over 7,000 newborn kits and over 6,400 clean delivery kits to facilitate safe childbirth, have been distributed across Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab provinces.
To read our blog on “90,000 children affected by floods are treated by ChildLife,” click here