New kit prepares for pregnancies in PNG emergencies

26 January 2017
The Lae Area Medical Store’s technical adviser Mr Malcolm Sabak, has received 10 of UNFPA’s reproductive health kits which will help cater for thousands of women in the surrounding provinces during an emergency. Photo: UNFPA, Malcolm Sabak

 “When women are pregnant, it already puts a massive strain on their bodies. They often get morning sickness and nausea, swollen feet and feel extremely tired. So, imagine what it’s like when you’re pregnant and then a crisis hits,” explains Debbie Kupesan from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“It’s always women and girls who hurt the most.”

Under normal conditions, around 1,300 women dying every year as a result of pregnancy-related problems in PNG. In a crisis, such as a conflict, natural disaster or tribal fight, one in five women are likely to be pregnant in dangerous conditions.

As a Reproductive Health Commodity Security and Supply Chain Officer it’s Ms Kupesan’s job to try and ensure the sexual and reproductive health needs of women are met when a humanitarian crisis arises.

“In times of upheaval, pregnancy-related deaths and sexual violence soar. Often, these women have no access to reproductive health services such as skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care, lose access to family planning and face an increased risk of life-threatening complications,” Ms Kupesan said.

The UNFPA moves quickly when emergency strikes to protect the reproductive health of communities in emergencies and now it’s hoping to get vital supplies to villages and towns in need sooner.

“We’re prepositioning reproductive health kits across the country’s biggest three centres in Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagan to help get life saving supplies to pregnant mothers and girls faster. In total 30 different types of kits will be distributed, with each kit meeting the needs of between 10,000 to 30,000 people,” Ms Kupesan said.

The first block of kits are designed for community health care providers, such as primary health facilities in rural areas and contain medicines and disposable items including condoms, post rape treatments such as pregnancy test kit, and emergency contraceptives, oral and injectable contraception, treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

The second block of kits are for use by trained healthcare providers with midwifery skills to ensure that every pregnancy and birth at a health centre is safe. These kits contain contraceptives including intrauterine devices and items to assist with emergency deliveries and complications such as excessive bleeding and high blood pressure.

The Lae Area Medical Store’s technical adviser Mr Malcolm Sabak, has received 10 of the reproductive health kits to cater for women in the surrounding Eastern Highlands, Manus, Morobe and Madang provinces during an emergency.

In the highlands region the most likely emergency would be a landslide or tribal fight while provinces along the coast face potential tsunamis and flooding. He said the kits will make a big difference.

“The kits will be really helpful in a disaster where hospitals and health centres are unable to provide services, especially as they only receive their supplies every two months. They are also useful because of the way they are packaged, it is made especially for women,” said Mr Sabak.   

By Alice Plate and Ruth Pisi