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Health, LIFE

How Swift Emergency Response Saves Lives

Posted: Jul 12, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Yinka Shokunbi Lagos

In many developing countries Nigeria inclusive, a lot of times there are disasters, there are no coordinated emergency response teams to offer search and rescue missions and as such many lives that could have been saved are unnecessarily lost.

Prof. Oshotimehin

Prof. Oshotimehin

Besides several lives that are lost to disasters, there are countless numbers of forcibly displaced persons who also are in dire emergency situations but whose needs are equally unmet due to lack of proper coordinating mechanisms as well.

The latest report of the United Nations have shown that the numbers of forcibly displaced persons around the world continue to rise with the figure hitting a 60m record mark at the end of 2014. According to the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), Professor Babatunde Oshotimehin, among the 60m are mostly women and adolescent girls face particular threats as a result of the absence of health and other essential services that they need.

Oshotimehin pointed out that even under normal conditions, reproductive health complications are a leading cause of death and illness among women of childbearing age. In humanitarian situations, an estimated one in five women and adolescent girls are likely to be pregnant, he said.

And, as skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care often become unavailable, pregnant women’s and girls’ vulnerability to death and injury is further exacerbated, Oshotimehin also pointed out.

In his message to the World Population Day, July 11, the Executive Director observed, “Women and adolescent girls also face much greater risk of abuse, sexual exploitation, violence and forced marriage during conflicts and natural disasters.

“In addition, many women who survive a crisis become heads of household, with the sole responsibility of caring for their children. They often have to overcome immense obstacles to provide health and care for children, the sick, the injured and the elderly, and bear the heaviest burden of relief and reconstruction. As a result, they may neglect their own needs as they care for others”, said Oshotimehin.

He said, “The complex emergencies we are responding to include protracted conflicts, made worse by poor or failed governance, the consequences of climate change, and the engagement of extremist groups claiming territory, resources and power.

“That is why the theme of this World Population Day, “Vulnerable Populations in Emergencies”, is intended to highlight the special needs of women and adolescent girls during conflicts and humanitarian disasters”, Oshotimehin added.

He pointed out that one of the priorities of UNFPA, is to empower and safeguard the well-being of women, adolescent girls, and young people and address their specific needs and concerns. We work closely with governments, the United Nations system, local partners and others on disaster preparedness to ensure that reproductive health is integrated into emergency responses.

Adding also, UNFPA deploys hygiene kits, obstetric and contraceptive supplies, trained personnel and other support to vulnerable populations.  It also works to ensure the needs of women, adolescent girls and young people are served through both an emergency and the reconstruction phase. Our aim is to ensure that women’s and adolescent girls’ right to sexual and reproductive health is protected and their safety is ensured.

On the 2015 WPD, the UNFPA therefore called on the international community to redouble efforts to protect the health and rights of women and girls.

According to Oshotimehin, “We must enable women, adolescent girls and young people to play their full role in peace talks, peace building and recovery, and to ensure that governments comply with international law and bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice.

“By prioritizing health, rights and the full participation of women, adolescent girls and young people in public life, we increase our prospects for a more just, stable and peaceful world”, the executive director averred.