Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn


Even as rescue operations are underway in different parts of flood ravaged Pakistan, it is pregnant women and girls who have been severely affected the most. The International Monetary Fund’s approval to resume financial assistance to Pakistan has brought a sigh of big relief to 230 million people from default, but Pakistan urgently needs more help to offset the devastation wrought by recent monsoon floods. According to Pakistan Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, more than 33 million people have been affected due to the floods.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 650,000 pregnant women and girls, 73,000 of whom are expected to deliver in the next month are among the badly affected people. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said that many of these women lack access to the healthcare facilities and support they need to deliver their children safely. Even before this year’s floods, Pakistani women faced numerous reproductive health challenges and had one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in South Asia. The HRW said that climate change has increased health pressures on pregnant women, new mothers, and their families in Pakistan, and exacerbated existing inequities in maternal and newborn health. The negative impacts of climate change are unevenly experienced, with pregnant women among the groups most severely affected.

Child marriage is also an issue. The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, estimates that 18.9 million girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18, and 4.6 million before 15. Many girls are forced into dangerous pregnancies at a young age and pregnancies that are too closely spaced.

But the floods have made a bad situation worse. Most births in Pakistan happen at home, and with almost one million homes destroyed, many women don’t know where they will deliver their babies, stated the Human Rights Watch. Floods have severely damaged Pakistan’s crumbling healthcare infrastructure. In Sindh province, more than 1,000 health facilities have been fully or partially destroyed. Another 198 health facilities have been damaged in Balochistan province. The extensive damage to roads and communication networks further hinders access to clinics and hospitals. These barriers not only affect women and girls giving birth, but also those seeking access to contraception and other reproductive health services.