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#SafeBirthEvenHere: UNFPA's humanitarian response in flood-stricken Lao PDR

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Lao PDR
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UNFPA
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In flood-hit southern Lao PDR this World Humanitarian Day, UNFPA and partners are intensifying relief efforts for affected populations, including women and girls, as the misery continues almost a month after disaster struck, including the collapse of a dam and the devastation that calamity triggered for tens of thousands of civilians in the area.

UNFPA supplies have been arriving in the country with the support of the Australian government. These include UNFPA's trademark Dignity Kits, containing essential health and hygiene supplies, such as sanitary pads, clean clothes and underwear, toothpaste and toothbrushes, and flashlights and whistles for extra security.

As well, UNFPA's response includes clean delivery kits to ensure safer pregnancy and childbirth, especially in a situation where health facilities have been damaged or swept away altogether. The sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls are also addressed via the provision of health services as feasible, including contraception and family planning information and services.

Women do not stop giving birth during emergencies. The threat of gender-based violence, including sexual assault, intensifies in the wake of natural disasters or amid conflict. UNFPA's humanitarian response in Lao PDR and globally mirrors UNFPA's Transformational Goals - zero maternal deaths, zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls, and zero unmet need for family planning.

Alongside the need for food, water and shelter, which are the most obvious interventions in humanitarian response, the services and supplies UNFPA provides fill a need that is all too often ignored - the very special needs of women and girls.

If a menstruating woman cannot move around freely, she cannot access vital relief supplies or aid.

If a woman or girl does not have protection from violence in these challenging circumstances, the probability of assault or other violence increases, especially at night when she needs to use the washroom or otherwise step out of her shelter.

And if a pregnant woman cannot receive timely health assistance in the months and days leading up to childbirth, as well as during childbirth itself, the lives of both mother and baby may be in danger.

Already in the response in Lao PDR, UNFPA has seen how vital its supplies and services have been - reaching hundreds of women and girls with essential items, and assisting pregnant women to give birth safely as well.

Thanks to UNFPA's pre-positioning initiative with Australia's support, whereby supplies for humanitarian response are stored in a warehouse in Brisbane for swift deployment to affected areas, UNFPA shipments reached Lao PDR within 48 hours of the Government's request for assistance, ferried to Pakse airfield via an Australian military plane.

UNFPA Lao PDR will continue to work closely with the Government and UN partners, including WHO and UNICEF, to ensure that the humanitarian response in Attapeu Province and other affected areas will meet the needs of affected populations, with women and girls at the centre.

For more on the UN system response to the floods and dam collapse in Lao PDR, access the latest updates at http://www.la.one.un.org/ and https://lao.unfpa.org/en