Ethiopia: Worst drought in 40 years threatens progress in maternal and newborn health (UNFPA)

The 24-year-old mother was recovering from a life-saving cesarean section at a general hospital in Gode, a city in Ethiopia’s Somali region, which has been one of the worst hit by the worst drought in four decades, UNFPA says. , the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health organization, in a report.

Ms Abadi currently lives with her seven children in an informal settlement in the Shabelle area, along with her mother, Ms Barkhado, and other drought-displaced people.

Mrs. Barkhado went through many crises in her 60s, but this one is the most devastating for her.

“Of all the droughts I’ve experienced in my life, this is the worst in 40 years. This year there is no water or pasture wherever you go. I don’t know how we will survive,” she said.

Climate shock and extreme weather are fueling humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa and putting an unbearable strain on already struggling health systems with limited facilities, heavily used and almost non-existent infrastructure.

A climate crisis that weighs the most on women’s and girls’ health

Progress made in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity in Ethiopia threatens to derail and there is an urgent need to expand the coverage of maternal health and protection services to protect the health and rights of women and girls .

“We have noticed an increase in maternal and neonatal deaths in recent months. Almost all of our cases are women who have traveled up to 200 kilometers to reach the facility, many of them suffering from work-related complications and have no means of transport,” said the medical director of Gode General Hospital, Dr Mahamed Sheh.

In eastern and southern Ethiopia, seasonal rains failed for the third time since late 2020, leading to mass displacement of the population and worsening an already dire humanitarian situation.

Nearly 8 million people have been affected and more than 286,000 Ethiopian Somalis, including Ms Abadi, have been displaced and fled their homes to survive as crops, livestock and livelihoods are wiped out.

With livestock deaths reaching a staggering 1.4 million and growing by the day, Mrs. Abadi’s only source of income evaporated as quickly as her hopes.

“We have lost everything we had – 30 goats and 10 cattle,” Ms Abadi said. “We only have one cow that is barely standing. She’s too weak to walk.

With no animals left to survive, Mrs. Abadi fears for her family’s future.

Displaced women and girls are at increased risk of sexual and physical violence and coercion, and child and forced marriages increase during humanitarian crises as households lose livelihoods and protective mechanisms shrink.

The tiring journey to access maternal and reproductive health services

In the Somali region, some 930,000 people are in need of emergency and reproductive health assistance and more than 565,000 are believed to have limited access to protection services, including women, children and victims of gender-based violence.

According to the Ethiopian Institute of Public Health, more than 60% of people in the Somali region are more than an hour’s walk from the nearest health center — which may or may not work if they manage to get there.

More than 154,000 women are currently pregnant in the Somali region and in the next month alone, an estimated 2,568 women and 3,425 newborn babies will experience life-threatening complications if skilled care and services are not available.

“Displaced mothers arrive with complications and leave in the same condition. We don’t have maternity wards and we can’t keep them waiting here for a month in the delivery room or in the hallway. When they come back, sometimes it’s too late,” said Aston Ma’am, a hospital obstetrician.

Although Mrs. Abadi and her family have suffered enormous losses, she is grateful that all her children are now doing well and looks forward to the day when she can take care of her livestock again.

After being discharged from Gode Hospital on arrival due to complications from the absence of a maternity ward, she was lucky enough to arrive in time to undergo the life-saving cesarean section. Many women endure grueling journeys of hundreds of miles, but arrive too late to be rescued.

Don’t leave a mother or newborn

With the support of Irish Aid and in partnership with UNICEF, UNFPA is expanding its response in the Somali region through a two-year package of essential health services, including support for essential pregnancies to help women like Ms Abadi.

Mobile health wards staffed by trained midwives will also be deployed in some of the hardest-to-reach areas, and eight health facilities in the Shabelle and Erer areas will receive emergency obstetric equipment and supplies.

At the same time, safe spaces and one-stop centers will provide comprehensive medical and psychosocial support for survivors of gender-based violence, as well as reproductive health medicines, dignity kits containing sanitary and hygiene items, as well as ambulances. distributed to health centers in the region.

As of March 2022, 32 primary health care providers in 14 UNFPA-supported facilities in the Somali region had been trained in post-abortion care, in collaboration with the Regional Health Bureau, with the aim of reducing maternal mortality.

About 250 women of childbearing age also participated in community events, which aim to raise awareness about ways to prevent gender-based violence and the services and support available, in collaboration with the Regional Office for Women’s Affairs, Children and Youth.

UNFPA’s Humanitarian Response Appeal for 2022 is seeking nearly $24 million to strengthen the health system and rebuild the capacity of maternal and reproductive health services in the Somali region and seven other crisis-hit regions of the country. To date, just over half of the profession has been funded.

Leave a Comment