Family planning, a lifesaving intervention for conflict-affected communities in Ethiopia
“In this difficult situation, family planning will help me take care of my own health and safety and take better care of my baby and my family,” says Nigiste, 21, mother of a three-year-old son. month. After the conflict spread from Tigray to her Amhara region, she fled with her newborn son and now lives in Kulch-Meda, a camp for displaced people on the outskirts of the town of Debark. She receives family planning counseling at Marie Stopes International (MSI), a mobile clinic supported by UNFPA.
The conflict in northern Ethiopia has displaced thousands of people and more than 9.4 million are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
“I am alone and barely have enough to cover my basic needs,” said Nigiste, who depends entirely on humanitarian aid for his survival. “After discovering the benefits of spacing pregnancies, I decided to use family planning,” she explained.
Across northern Ethiopia, health systems are cracking in the face of ever-increasing needs. The damage and destruction of health facilities and the shortage of supplies and providers severely disrupt the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services to people in need.
Family planning, a life-saving intervention
Family planning needs do not disappear during a crisis. In fact, stories like Nigiste’s are all too common, as needs become more urgent and women may want to avoid the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, especially during a time of displacement or crisis.
“The demand for family planning services is high,” said Mr. Birhanu Yalem, an MSI clinical nurse at the camp. “Women seek to avoid childbirth in this situation, including those who have experienced obstetric complications in the past and who would most likely be at high risk in the future. Family planning saves lives,” a- he explained.
“During conflict, displacement or natural disaster, family planning is increasingly important to prevent unwanted pregnancies, facilitate appropriate birth spacing and reduce the burden of maternal mortality. More than 60% of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion and an estimated 45% of all abortions are unsafe, causing 5-13% of all maternal deaths. In an emergency, the situation worsens.
“With the disruption of essential health services and the frequent increase in sexual violence during emergencies, family planning is a proven, high-impact, cost-effective intervention that not only supports women’s rights, but prevents maternal deaths. and neonatal, or associated complications, such as a fistula,” says Dr. James Okara Wanyama, UNFPA’s humanitarian program coordinator in Ethiopia.
Months of conflict, coupled with the cumulative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other climate-related shocks, have severely compromised access to maternal and reproductive health services in northern Ethiopia. It is estimated that more than 13 million people need life-saving health services.
Improving Family Planning Service Delivery for Conflict-Affected Communities
UNFPA in Ethiopia, in partnership with Marie Stopes International, has deployed 4 mobile clinics – staffed by midwives, clinical nurses and psychosocial counselors – to ensure the provision of essential maternal and reproductive health services around the clock Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) sites in Amhara and Afar regions. Mobile teams raise awareness of service availability and build capacity of existing health professionals as part of the minimum initial service package in host communities and IDP sites in Afar and Amhara regions .
In addition, UNFPA and MSI support one-stop centers by providing clinical management of rape, psychosocial support and dignity kits for survivors of gender-based violence. This lifesaving support provided by mobile teams to conflict-affected communities in northern Ethiopia is made possible with funding from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and Irish Aid.
Nigiste is grateful to make a choice based on her own needs, priorities and reproductive life. But much more needs to be done to ensure that every woman in Ethiopia can exercise her reproductive rights.
To continue providing life-saving family planning services, including maternal and newborn health and protection services, UNFPA is appealing for $30 million as part of the broader UN humanitarian appeal of 2022 for Ethiopia. To date, there is a critical funding gap of US$11 million.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNFPA – Eastern and Southern Africa.
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