On Monday 6th February, catastrophic earthquakes hit Türkiye and Syria. Within hours, our local member association, the Syrian Family Planning Association (SFPA), was among the first responders assisting and evacuating people to safe shelter and accommodation in Syria.
Dr. Lama Mouakea, Executive Director, Syrian Family Planning Association said:
“In the aftermath of Monday’s earthquake, at least two hospitals have collapsed, three of our clinics have been damaged, and many health services have been disrupted. This will have an immediate, and dire, impact on women and girls. The catastrophic earthquake combined with the harsh winter makes our response even more critical. We have already sent mobile clinics to the areas affected to provide immediate healthcare.”
Dr. Mouakea added: “Women and girls who are being moved into shelters in several areas, such as Aleppo and Idlib, may be subjected to violence or sexual abuse, so the medical and psycho-social service needs are great. We know of one devastating case of a mother giving birth to a baby while buried beneath rubble, who later sadly passed away. So getting pregnant women to safe spaces to deliver their babies is now essential. Our staff visit these areas continuously every week, so are already familiar with the communities and areas that are hardest hit. SFPA has been here before the earthquake providing humanitarian aid and will continue to serve these communities as they recover from this latest disaster.”
Whilst also responding to other immediate needs, SFPA is ensuring sexual and reproductive healthcare is on the agenda as a critical component of the response, especially for women, girls and marginalized communities.
Three in five preventable maternal deaths occur during natural disasters, and one in five women is likely to be pregnant during a crisis. Without access to reproductive healthcare, women and girls will suffer severe consequences, including miscarriage, premature labour, complications from unassisted deliveries and increased exposure to sexual and domestic violence, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion and even death.
Julie Taft, Humanitarian Director, International Planned Parenthood Federation said:
“IPPF is deeply saddened to hear of the news of the devastating earthquake in Türkiye and Syria. Our deepest condolences go out to the families who lost loved ones and whose homes were destroyed. Our member association in Syria has already started responding with mobile health clinics, and we stand ready to support the ongoing response efforts of our local partners in their delivery of vital, and lifesaving, sexual and reproductive healthcare to women, girls, and marginalized populations.”
Twelve years of war and sanctions have left Syria’s infrastructure, including healthcare systems, battered. A crippling economic crisis has also driven humanitarian needs to record levels. SFPA has been responding throughout these interlinked crises ensuring continued sexual and reproductive healthcare services through their mobile and static clinics.
Dr Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General of IPPF said:
“It is amongst one of the most devastating natural disasters we have seen in recent times. The focus of all actors must be squarely on the needs of the people, particularly women and girls and those who are more vulnerable. It is not time to play geopolitics when women are giving birth amidst the devastation. It is time to focus on getting aid and support to where it is needed, now. It is not only the rubble that must be removed, but also any obstacle put in place by those in positions of power, locally, nationally or internationally.”