Tuesday November 29, 2022

‘NGOs should counsel flood victims on family planning’

By Our Correspondent
September 28, 2022

“Natural disasters bring baby booms,” said Dr Wajiha Javed of Getz Pharma on Tuesday. She said that unwanted babies are born after natural calamities, and it is exactly where non-governmental organisations (NGOs) need to play their role.

Dr Wajiha said that a baby boom after a natural disaster is very much an issue of national importance, and it needs to be addressed. She said NGOs should counsel flood victims on family planning. She pointed out that even cases of sexually transmitted diseases in calamity-hit areas increase, which she said can be attributed to a number of factors.

Dr Wajiha was addressing a webinar — titled ‘Towards a gendered recovery after the floods: Women are the hardest hit during a disaster. Why are responses so gender-blind?’ — that was arranged by the nonprofit Uks.

Uks Director Tasneem Ahmer said that after the 2005 earthquake it had become very necessary to tell the media how to report on natural disasters. “We need not show dead bodies, parts of human bodies and blood, and in 2005 we saw images of a woman who was breathing her last until she died.”

Tasneem said the media impacts disaster responses. “It induces people to help and reach out to more people for aid. When good stories come up in the media, a better image comes forward. We also need to see where women are deprived of their rights.” She said that very few women working for rehabilitation are shown in news stories. “Even those female victims who rebuild their families after natural disasters are shown in the media.”

Raheela Saad, one of the panellists who works in calamity-hit areas, said that every image coming from such areas is of a woman holding a child. “I have not seen a single picture where a man is holding a child. Alongside holding their children, women also manage their vanity.”

Raheela said that in 2018, when Iran was hit by floods, Pakistan was sending relief packages. “I took a stand to include sanitary pads in the relief, but it created a fiasco at the Foreign Office. Later, however, they were convinced.” She stressed on the media to voice more opinions and concerns. She also pointed out that the policies that are devised must be media-friendly. “Dialogue needs to be open and friendly.”

Dr Wajiha highlighted the need for breastfeeding centres in relief camps. “If there won’t be any breastfeeding spaces, there will be more malnourishment in children in flood-hit areas. Breastfeeding for women is a need that should be addressed, and the media needs to highlight it.”

A former Unicef official who has worked in South Asia said that 60 per cent of maternal health issues take place during natural disasters. He said that in the coming days, there will be more than 0.1 million children in flood-hit areas. “How many of those babies and their mothers will survive?” he said, adding that the government and NGOs need to work on their rehabilitation process.