In the wake of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, the United Nations has been at work providing food and aid directly to women. One form of aid is intended specifically for women is female-friendly health kits for reproductive health.
Jemilah Mahmood is head of the humanitarian response branch of The United Nations Fund, or UNFPA, the organization in charge of this aid centered on women.
Mahmood said,“One of the issues not talked much about is the issue of dignity. We must remember that women and girls are still menstruating despite having to live outside in very deplorable conditions. Embarrassment from soiled clothes prevents women from wanting to be seen at distribution points and many would rather stay away, risking their survival."
Dignity kits contain sanitary napkins, hygiene materials and underwear.
The reproductive health kits have a clean sheet, a sterile blade to cut the umbilical cord, a clean string to tie the cord and a blanket for the baby.
Mahmood said UNFPA estimates that 7,000 women will be giving birth in February, and many of them will give birth in the middle of the street. UNFPA is in the process of shipping medical equipment for Caesarian section surgery, as well as post-natal care itmes like vitamins and medicine she added.
Roberta Clarke, regional program director for the UN Development Fund for Women, or UNIFEM, said that there is an increase in violence against women in these disasters and it is urgent that women are able to get in touch with others in their community. One way to do that is to distribute transistor radios to women. UNFPA and an agency called Communicating with Disaster Affected Populations are doing just that.
The radios are solar powered and they help women and communities get vital information after disasters, according to UNFPA spokesperson Omar Gharzeddine. He also said that UNFPA is sending a radio journalist to Haiti to, “provide key messages and information pertaining to reproductive health and protection.”
In addition, the UN created several programs aimed at getting food and other assistance directly to women.