6 January 2005


Press Release


(Reissued as received.)

NEW YORK, 5 January (UNFPA) -- The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is requesting approximately $28 million from donors to help meet urgent health, hygiene and protection needs for women and youth in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, the three countries hardest hit by last week’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.

The UNFPA has offices in all the countries affected by the disaster.  The Fund has been working with partners from the start to assess immediate needs, supply life-saving medicines and supplies to enable pregnant women to deliver safely, and re-establish emergency obstetric care and other urgent health services.  The Fund has also provided hygiene kits -- including soap, washcloths and sanitary napkins -- for tens of thousands of women and their families, many of whom lost everything but the clothes on their backs.  The UNFPA has already made $3 million available for immediate response in all affected countries, as well as additional funds for medicines, equipment and supplies.

The new donor appeal, part of a United Nations-wide flash appeal launched Thursday in Jakarta, Indonesia, is to help the UNFPA and partners -- including government ministries, local non-governmental organizations, and sister humanitarian agencies -- meet extraordinary needs of women and youth in the three worst-hit countries over the next six months.  Activities covered by the $28 million will include:

-- Providing and distributing equipment, medicines and supplies to ensure safe childbirth and emergency obstetric care, as well as prevention of HIV transmission;

-- Re-establishing maternal health services, including reconstruction of facilities, in areas where medical infrastructure and services have been devastated;

-- Psychosocial support to tsunami survivors, including women who have become heads of household as a result of the disaster;

-- Preventing and treating cases of violence against women and youth through community outreach programmes and medical and psycho-social support;

-- Promoting the access of unaccompanied women and other vulnerable populations to basic services including water, sanitation, food, health and protection;

-- Providing and distributing sanitary supplies; and

-- Supporting youth through education programmes and drop-in centres.

On the eve of the appeal, UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid was confident that the international donor community would respond swiftly to the Fund’s appeal for critical support to women and youth in the affected countries.

“Women are the pillars of relief at times like this”, said Ms. Obaid.  “But they have unique health vulnerabilities, and other special needs related to the burden of care they shoulder for children and other survivors.”

“The support of women and youth must be an urgent priority during this critical period.  It is an investment in the rehabilitation of families, communities and societies that will greatly speed recovery and reconstruction in the months and years to come.”


The UNFPA is asking the international donor community for $18 million for projects in Indonesia, where the destruction and human casualties caused by the earthquake and tsunami were catastrophic.  More than 80,000 people were killed, mostly in the remote Aceh region on the island of Sumatra.  At least 1 million more require immediate assistance, which has been complicated by the destruction or severe damage of roads and bridges, telecommunications, food and fuel outlets, and health infrastructure.

Working in partnership with the World Health Organization and the Indonesian Ministry of Health, the UNFPA has requested $8 million for the re-establishment of basic reproductive health services, including maternal health and the prevention of sexually transmitted infection and HIV/AIDS.  To minimize maternal and infant mortality, the UNFPA and partners will use these funds to provide and distribute equipment, medicines and supplies to ensure safe child delivery and re-establish emergency obstetric care.  The funds will also enable training support for government and non-governmental organization staff, as well as technical assistance, initial rehabilitation of health premises, and support of referral mechanisms and transport for pregnant women who experience complications.

The UNFPA has requested $7 million to meet urgent psychosocial needs in the wake of the disaster.  This support ranges from counselling for survivors, to provision of basic clothing items such as sarongs and headscarves.  Counselling and support groups are urgently needed in Aceh in particular, where the magnitude of the disaster has caused debilitating trauma.  Survivors have been traumatized to the point where some adults are unable to care for their children or even themselves.  These funds will also cover the cost of hygiene kits, which include soap, washcloths and sanitary supplies.

The remaining $3 million will promote the access of women and other vulnerable populations to services including water, sanitation, food, health and protection.  The UNFPA will work with local non-governmental organizations to ensure that provision of these necessities occurs in a way that recognizes the special situation of women, who are often unable to report to distribution centres because they must single-handedly look after children, the injured and other survivors.  These funds will also be used to prevent violence against women and youth through community outreach programs run by women’s associations and youth groups.

Sri Lanka

The UNFPA is requesting $7.5 million to help meet the urgent reproductive health needs of survivors in Sri Lanka, where the tsunami killed more than 30,000 people and left more than 860,000 homeless and destitute.  The Fund is particularly concerned with the special needs of the 500,000 women and girls affected by the disaster.

The bulk of the amount -- $6.5 million -- would help restore reproductive health services and ensure safe deliveries and emergency obstetric care among the displaced.  The UNFPA will work with other national and international partners to reconstruct and refurbish 20 maternity wards, 20 labour rooms, and two comprehensive essential obstetric care facilities in the affected areas.  It will provide personal hygiene kits for girls and women and disseminate information on emergency reproductive health services to the affected population.  It will also work on reducing sexually transmitted infections and HIV transmission, and preventing and managing the consequences of sexual violence.

The rest of the amount will be used to train health-service providers, non-governmental organizations and youth networks on how to address the psychosocial needs of the displaced communities.  That would include responding to sexual and gender-based violence with psychosocial support services for girls and women.


At least 1,500 pregnant women –- scattered across 200 islands -– have been affected by the tsunami in the Maldives, which was extremely hard hit because it is barely above sea level.  Within six months, 1,000 of these women will deliver, regardless of what health facilities are available.

Safe delivery conditions are a major concern for the UNFPA as health infrastructure and services have been severely disrupted and, in some cases, destroyed.  Ten atolls hospitals and health centres have been severely damaged, while supplies and equipment have been destroyed in an additional 20 health service delivery points.

The UNFPA is asking the international donor community for $2 million to help the Maldives health sector respond to the disaster.  The amount would be instrumental in re-establishing reproductive health services for the severely affected populations and in purchasing drugs and vaccines, medical supplies, essential safe delivery kits, and reproductive health commodities.  That would ensure good reproductive health, safe delivery, and fewer complications related to pregnancy and delivery.  The amount would also help the UNFPA promote adolescent reproductive health, including the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.

The UNFPA is requesting $400,000 for the protection and psychosocial support to women and adolescent girls.  The UNFPA will collaborate with the Ministry of Health and local organizations to provide this support to families and communities, with special attention.

To read the full United Nations-wide Flash appeal, please visit http://www.reliefweb.int/appeals/temp/flashappeal.html.

The UNFPA is assisting governments and local populations in all the countries affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.  To support the Fund’s emergency response to the disaster or learn more, please visit www.unfpa.org.

For more information, please contact David Del Vecchio at tel.:  +1 (212) 297-4975 or +1 (917) 892-7764, e-mail:  delvecchio@unfpa.org; or Omar Gharzeddine at tel.:  +1 (212) 297-5028, e-mail:  gharzeddine@unfpa.org.

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For information media. Not an official record.