Effect of recent floods on women’s reproductive health in Pakistan: an alarming situation : IJS Global Health

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Effect of recent floods on women’s reproductive health in Pakistan: an alarming situation

Ochani, Sidhant MBBSa,*; Aaqil, Syeda Ilsa MBBSb; Nazir, Abubakar MBBSc; Athar, Fatima Binte MBBSd; Ullah, Kaleem FCPSe

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International Journal of Surgery: Global Health 6(1):p e98, January 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/GH9.0000000000000098
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The most frequent natural calamity in developed and developing nations is flooding, which has significantly increased morbidity and mortality globally. Over the previous 30 years, flooding has harmed more than 2.8 billion people globally and claimed the lives of over 200,000 individuals. The effect of floods on a population’s health varies depending on the population’s vulnerability. It greatly impairs the quality of life of everyone in the affected area. However, pregnant women are more vulnerable to the negative impact of flood-related changes, and floods may have a variety of detrimental psychological and pathological impacts on women’s reproductive health1.

The predominant risk factors for pregnancy-related disorders are psycho-physiological stress, lack of access to health care facilities, and disruption in prenatal care. Preterm birth, low birth weight, small for gestational age, stillbirth, and spontaneous abortion are a few of the pregnancy-related complications in predisposed women in disastrous flood regions2.

Flooding has seriously harmed the already underdeveloped Pakistan’s health care system, and more than 1000 and 198 medical facilities have been damaged in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, respectively. Access to clinics and hospitals has been made more difficult by the massive damage done to the roadways and communication systems. These obstacles have endangered the lives of expectant mothers and new babies3. Pregnant women are more likely to experience unfavorable birth outcomes, such as low birth weight and preterm deliveries with gestational hypertension4–6. The UN Population Fund predicts that 1700 women will give birth each day, and ~500,000 pregnant women will be affected by the catastrophe of the flood. The majority of them will develop complications that will require medical attention7. The majority of births in Pakistan take place at home, and now that ~1 million homes have been destroyed, the affected women are uncertain about their place of delivery. The stress of being away from home and familiar surroundings, a cut-off from society and relatives, and nutritional problems due to food shortages can increase the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension8.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), about 650,000 pregnant women in flood-affected areas need maternal health services to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Up to 73,000 expectant mothers will require competent delivery attendants, neonatal care, and support in the upcoming month9. To provide access to essential reproductive health services and supplies, such as dignity kits, to pregnant females, UNFPA is stepping up its emergency response. In all, 8311 dignity kits, 7411 newborn baby kits, and 6412 clean delivery kits have been sent by UNFPA for flood victims in Pakistan10. Other government and nongovernment organizations should also step forward and join this UNFPA campaign for the free provision of birth kits to flood-affected pregnant females.

Various organizations involved in health care, nutrition, and clean water provision during various emergencies and disastrous situations should also give awareness of the importance of female reproductive health in affected areas. Also, policy-makers should take special initiatives to prevent maternal deaths in flood victims. These measures should include access to qualified medical professionals, provision of free drugs, and facility of immediate referral of complicated patients to specialized units. Proper transport facilities should be ensured to avoid delays in the referral of complicated cases. Health care professionals should properly monitor maternal health changes and fetal growth. Also, social support is crucial for displaced pregnant women as they remain under constant stress. Mental health Support and environmental health hazards education should be ensured in pregnant women in naturally disastrous regions.

Pregnancy complications can be reduced or prevented by promoting prenatal care in flood-risk areas. Increasing awareness with the use of social media and promoting the importance of health in pregnant females and its effect on neonates are the key initiatives to mitigate and avoid morbidity and mortality in people living in high-risk areas. Educating women regarding family planning in high-risk areas is also important in ensuring maternal and neonatal health.

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Authors’ contribution

Literature review was done by all authors. S.O., S.I.A., A.N., and F.B.A.: writing the manuscript. S.O. and K.U.: review editing, formatting, and referencing.

Conflicts of interest disclosure

The authors declare that they have no financial conflict of interest with regard to the content of this report.

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Sidhant Ochani.


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