Myanmar is prone to natural disasters. In 2015, Cyclone Komen caused severe flooding and landslides across the country's states and regions. The devastation affected more than 1.7 million people, and killed hundreds. Many women and girls were unable to access basic health care.
"Pregnant women must give birth, even in emergencies, and my job involved ensuring that these women continue to have access to safe and clean deliveries despite the situation. It is a matter of life and death for the woman and the baby," says Dr. Drysdale.
Dr. Drysdale worked alongside UNFPA staff to ensure that the reproductive health needs and protection concerns of women and girls have been integrated into emergency responses through the UNFPA's Minimum Initial Service Package. She has designed a number of instrumental evaluation and monitoring tools to assess the level of reproductive health requirements within local communities in Myanmar. These tools will continue to be used by UNFPA and its partners.
"The conditions were extremely difficult, not only because of the damage caused by flooding, but because of the ongoing issues of the Internally Displaced Persons camps. There were many people already in need prior to the flooding, and now their situation is desperate," says Dr. Drysdale.
UNFPA distributed 7,400 Clean Delivery Kits to expectant mothers in isolated or demolished communities. Each kit comprises a clean plastic sheet, gloves, soap, a razor blade and string to cut and tie off the umbilical cord, and diaper cloth to dry off the baby.
Also distributed were 160 UNFPA Emergency Reproductive Health Kits aimed at assisting service providers to deliver reproductive health care at the community level, providing contraception and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases as well as for rape victims. These kits are vital in the provision of basic essentials in cases where urgent or ongoing medical attention is not available, or inaccessible. In addition, their distribution provides an opportunity for health workers to offer counselling or referral support to thousands of women in need.
UNFPA continues to provide Mobile Reproductive Health Clinics. These mobile clinics offer hygienic medical resources to allow for medical attention and deliveries in devastated and often very unreachable communities. The mobile clinics also allow for the necessary on-the-job training and mentoring of local health professionals.
"Through the mobile health clinics, we identified over 100 high risk pregnancies and arranged many emergency referrals to hospitals, saving the lives of many mothers and babies," says Dr. Drysdale.
Australian support of UNFPA Myanmar in disaster response is vital in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable communities, particularly women and girls.