As the devastating floods in Pakistan continue to cause misery for millions of families, Save the Children reports that tens of thousands of newborn babies and their mothers could be in serious danger.
At least half a million pregnant women have been affected by the floods, with more than 100,000 of them due to give birth in the next few months, according to the United Nations. Many will be forced to deliver in temporary shelters, with no access to clean water or health care and often surrounded by contaminated flood water.
Sonia Khush, Save the Children's director of emergency preparedness and response, said: "We know that mothers are giving birth in flimsy or crowded shelters, steps away from stagnant water and debris. And we know the dangers for newborns are extreme — the first hours and days of a child's life in the developing world are the riskiest, even without the added complications posed by a disaster of this scope. Displacement, increased impoverishment, crowded living conditions, disease and infection are further imperilling the lives of mothers and their newborn babies in Pakistan."
Even before this disaster, Pakistan had a high infant mortality rate, with 1 in 20 babies dying within the first month of life.
"This is a child survival crisis," said Khush. "Dengue, malaria, diarrhea and other infections are sickening hundreds of thousands of people. All of these diseases are treatable but can be fatal — especially to children — if not addressed. Our fixed and mobile health clinics are seeing hundreds of people every day, including pregnant women, new mothers and children. We are working to reach as many children and adults as quickly as possible."
Throughout this crisis, Save the Children has been helping mothers and babies survive. Aid workers have carried pregnant women across swollen rivers to safety, and delivered lifesaving care to women giving birth in appalling conditions.
For example, Abida, pregnant with her first child, was forced to flee her home in Sindh to escape the flooding. She went into labor in a school where she was sheltering along with 2,000 other people. Save the Children aid workers helped her and her new baby boy by providing medicines and a special kit for newborns.
Save the Children has so far reached over 160,000 people through emergency medical care and distribution of food, tents, shelter kits, hygiene kits and other supplies. Save the Children is working in all four provinces through UN clusters and in partnership with national, provincial and district administrations, to provide assistance to flood-affected families. Save the Children has been working in Pakistan for more than 30 years.
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