350,000 pregnant women & counting who survived Turkey-Syria earthquake require urgent healthcare

February 21, 2023 : More than 350,000 pregnant women who weathered the Turkey-Syria earthquake are in urgent requirement of healthcare, experts have cautioned.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the component of the United Nations committed to sexual and reproductive health, said around 38,000 of these females are due to give birth in the following month.

The pregnant women, who have lost families, friends, and homes in the earthquake, are being pushed to put their health at danger as they take shelter in makeshift camps where it is difficult to access nutrition and clean water, the agency stated.

It told women are struggling to access sexual and reproductive healthcare as numerous of buildings, including hospitals and services which they help, have been destroyed or badly impaired.

Dr. Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the UNFPA, stated: “Amidst all the destruction in Syria and Turkey, women and girls suffer by the earthquakes must be secure and protected and able to access good sexual and reproductive healthcare when they require it.

“The services protect lives and need to be an integral part of the answer.”

Her caution comes days after a Yemeni mother birthed a baby girl ten hours after being taken out from the rubble by humanitarian workers at her earthquake-affected home in Turkey.

The woman, Faten Al Yousifi, who was 39 weeks pregnant, had already adorned her baby’s nursery and packed a hospital birth bag when the earthquake hit her apartment in Malatya in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. “I did not assume I was still alive,” she told the BBC.

In February, Turkey weathered the deadliest earthquake in almost 100 years, with the lives of over 40,000 people proclaimed and at least 4,000 people slain in neighboring Syria. Tens of thousands more were left wounded by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and more than six million people have been replaced in Turkey and adjoining Syria.

A leading humanitarian NGO, ActionAid, recently alerted women and girls are among those hardest struck by the recent earthquake, with their cases becoming “increasingly alarming.”

The association raised concerns for the safety of women and girls seeking shelter in temporary shelters, as well as warning there are no aids for those who are expectant, breastfeeding, or on their menstrual cycle.

The regional director of ActionAid Arab Region, Racha Nasreddine, stated: ‘‘This is a shocking situation. After 12 years of conflict in Syria, females and girls internally displaced in Syria and surviving as refugees in Turkey were already vulnerable before the earthquake. Now, they have had their houses and livelihoods decimated.

“Women and girls are often distressed the most during humanitarian crises. Violence against them grows, and they stake being exploited more.

“There is very limited access to services like hospitals and so pregnant women are at threat of complications if they cannot receive the medical care they require.”

She cautioned that they will also be without sanitary commodities and have “very small privacy” while on their period.