“Where will I deliver my baby?” The risks facing pregnant women in humanitarian disasters

By Melissa Kuklin

December 14, 2017

I have to stay healthy for my children.

When Jacqueline found out she was pregnant, she was living with her husband in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Eight months later, she was living in the wilderness, hiding from armed forces that killed her neighbors and burned villages to the ground. She desperately wondered, “Where will I deliver my baby?” 

Jacqueline with her son at a UNFPA mobile clinic in Kalomba. Credit: ©UNFPA DRC

Jacqueline is one of the millions in the area who fled their homes. Thousands of those are pregnant women—many of whom end up giving birth on the run, in fear for their lives.

Thankfully, Jacqueline found UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, before that happened to her. In her third trimester, she arrived at a UNFPA mobile clinic and received her first check-up.  “I will come back here until I deliver,” she said.  “I have to stay healthy for my children.”

While Jacqueline was able to get the care she needed, we know that access to such lifesaving reproductive health care is still out of reach for too many women around the world.

Midwife Agnes speaks to women about the importance of pre-natal care and the signs of pregnancy complications. Credit: ©UNFPA DRC

Midwife Agnes speaks to women about the importance of pre-natal care and the signs of pregnancy complications. Credit: ©UNFPA DRC

Every two minutes, a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. What’s even worse is that many of these deaths are entirely preventable. This statistic is unacceptable. Unfortunately, it’s only one of many staggering figures that represent the incredible dangers many mothers around the world face bringing life into the world.

As heartbreaking and shocking as these facts are, we cannot and should not despair. There are signs of hope everywhere: since 1990, there has been a 44 percent decline in deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth. For decades, UNFPA has been on the front lines of that work. And it’s UNFPA, working with partners at every level, that is striving to get to the only number that’s acceptable for maternal mortality: zero.

By deploying teams of trained medical professionals to refugee camps and by operating mobile clinics, UNFPA is fighting to save the lives of women like Jacqueline who would otherwise be alone and in grave danger.

At Friends of UNFPA, it’s our job to help UNFPA in this fight—to raise resources and awareness. Together, we can help UNFPA ensure there is always a safe and viable answer when an expectant mother asks, “Where will I deliver my baby?”

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Header photo credit: © UNFPA Bangladesh/Naymuzzaman Prince

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