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Fiji: reproductive health is key to recovery from Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston

Suva, Fiji – 200 emergency dignity kits provided by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, were among the first supplies delivered to Fiji’s Ministry of Health and dispatched to some of the hardest-hit areas by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston. 

The water resistant kits help ensure women and girls' reproductive health needs are met in emergencies. They include a T-shirt, sarong, bath soap, washing powder, a torch, sanitary pads and underwear, condoms, towels and a water-resistant pouch for important documents, such as birth certificates.

“Assessments are critical for us to ensure a targeted response, and as we wait for these to be concluded, one of the main roles UNFPA plays in humanitarian situations globally as part of the United Nations is the provision of prepositioned dignity kits,” said Dr Laurent Zessler, UNFPA’s Director and Representative in the Pacific.

“Reproductive health needs are not usually prioritized immediately after an event like a natural disaster, but it is key to recovery; and as women are usually one of the main drivers of recovery, it is important that we also look after their fundamental health,” said Zessler.

UNFPA Pacific is in the process of procuring more dignity kits while it awaits the completion of assessments to ascertain the most effective way it can contribute to recovery efforts. The organization also is ready to provide clean delivery kits and other supplies to ensure safe births on request from the Ministry of Health. 

UNFPA's response has traditionally targeted the prevention of maternal and infant mortality, the reduction of HIV transmission and the prevention and management of consequences of sexual violence.

Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone which wrought havoc across the group of the Fiji islands on February 20, has so far claimed 36 lives. About 35,000 people are sheltering in 424 evacuation centres and the country is in a 30-day State of Natural Disaster.

The Cyclone is considered one of the strongest storms recorded in Fiji and experienced in the South Pacific, with estimated sustained winds of around 230 kmph and gusts up to 325 kmph.

Worldwide, around three-fifths of all maternal deaths take place in humanitarian or fragile contexts, and every day 507 women and adolescent girls die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in emergency situations, states UNFPA’s 2015 State of World Population Report.

UNFPA has long responded to humanitarian emergencies across Asia and the Pacific, the most disaster prone region in the world, including Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, the Nepal earthquake, typhoon responses in the Philippines, and floods in Myanmar triggered by Cyclone Komen last year.

Amid humanitarian emergencies worldwide, UNFPA provides a range of lifesaving services focused on pregnant women, new mothers and their infants, and young persons - distributing dignity kits with essential supplies, establishing reproductive health camps where women can give birth safely, helping create safe spaces for the displaced where women and girls can be protected from gender-based violence and empowering young persons to participate in the humanitarian response, and to reach out to their peers.


Ariela Zibiah - UNFPA Pacific, Suva. 

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