October 25, 2016

The importance of newborn health in humanitarian situations

Written by Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Robert Clay

This article originally appeared in Devex.

The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is contributing to severe health service delivery challenges: It impedes access to already highly vulnerable populations, slows delivery of medical supplies and drugs, and exacerbates shortages of health workers. Those fleeing the violence are also affected. For example, of the more than 400,000 South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, more than 60 percent are women and children under 5.

While the conflicts in South Sudan, Syria, and elsewhere are well-known, they are not unique. According to the U.N. refugee agency there are more than 65 million forcibly displaced people globally. By population this would be the 21st largest country in the world, according to a new report from Save the Children.

To reach the ambitious Sustainable Development Goal for health, including reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health, we must make humanitarian settings a high priority, because populations in these contexts shoulder a high burden of need and vulnerability.

In a humanitarian crisis, pregnant women and women who have recently delivered must overcome immense obstacles to provide care and safety for their children. At the same time, women’s vulnerability to malnutrition, sexual violence, and unplanned pregnancy increases; and so do the risks related to unassisted childbirth.

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