Central America Floods: Keeping unborn children healthy

8 November, 2011
Search and rescue operations during the recent floods in El Salvador.
Search and rescue operations during the recent floods in El Salvador.

The women began to arrive from early morning as soon as they were informed the mobile clinic was coming to the Health Centre of Caluco in the Salvadorean Department of Sonsonate.

Some women arrived accompanied by a friend, others arrived on their own. The majority of them were pregnant, who had taken refuge in temporary shelters since Tropical Depression 12 – E ravaged the country, flooding approximately 10 per cent of the country’s territory, damaging highways and rural roads and disrupting public services.

Carla, 19 years old, was one of the young people who walked into Caluco’s new Mobile Clinic. At 33 weeks pregnant, Carla felt a “heavy” pain that remained with her for days before she sought medical attention.

The care she had been taking of her pregnancy before the floods had taken a back seat as she focused on immediate survival - such as ensuring she and her family were safe from residual flooding, and providing food for her family.

During her medical visit to the Mobile Health Clinic, the attending doctor detected that the heaviness and pains that she was feeling was the beginning of labour.

“This represents a real threat to her and to her baby, because she is only thirty-three weeks pregnant. We had to refer her to a hospital,” explains the obstetrician, after speaking with Carla and coordinating her transfer to a hospital by ambulance. During the Mobile Clinic’s first day in Caluco, 35 people received medical consultations.

Rapid funding saves newborn lives

Access to health care, including obstetric services for pregnant woman, has become increasingly difficult due to the flooding and ensuing damage to physical infrastructure.

In response, the Ministry of Health with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has deployed Mobile Clinics, to bring gynaecologists and health workers to affected communities, to assist with complicated pregnancies and provide reproductive health services for 150,000 people.

These activities have been supported by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance. The Fund has provided more than $2.5 million to United Nations agencies to respond to the crisis in El Salvador. These funds have been critical for jump-starting multi-sector humanitarian interventions, including emergency reproductive health care.

“People sometimes get the impression that with flooding, the water comes and then the water recedes, and then everything is fine. But this is not the case. One month later, the water is still in their homes, in their bedrooms, in their living rooms, and they have an enormous struggle ahead of them,” said Catherine Bragg, Deputy UN Humanitarian Chief for UN OCHA.

“The situation there may not have made international headlines, probably because flooding is not dramatic or violent like an earthquake or hurricane, and the current disaster involves small countries…But for hundreds of thousands of people it is a major disaster – and one that is far from over. “

More>>  CERF website  -  ASG Bragg's press statement on the Central America Floods