UNRWA early registration safeguards the health of mother and child

04 July 2013
4 July 2013
As part of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ (UNRWA) commitment to safeguard the health status of pregnant mothers, the Agency consistently advocates for first trimester registration among Palestine refugee expectant mothers.
“I did not register early during my first pregnancy, but did while I was pregnant with my second child,” said Amira, who received information on early registration after visiting an UNRWA clinic in Lebanon. “After registering, I received nutritional supplements and also learned about the early dietary and lifestyle changes that I needed to make.
According to health reports, early registration following pregnancy substantially reduces the instances of complications during pregnancy, including infant and maternal mortality, while enabling doctors to recognize potential complications and risks of pregnancy at an early stage. This also gives doctors ample time to decide on an appropriate medical response should there be any complications.
Across UNRWA’s operations in Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory and Syria, early registration has increased substantially over the years, from 49.7 per cent in 2003, to 78.2 per cent in 2012. 
“In the past, many pregnant women were not aware of the health-risks associated with pregnancies except for the standard complications. Today, many of them are visiting our health clinics and learning more about what they should be doing, and looking for in terms of complications,” said  Farah, whose visit to an UNRWA health clinic three years ago saved her baby’s life. 
Through the Agency’s network of 139 health clinics, screening for anaemia, gestational diabetes and hypertension are done one a standard basis. To prevent congenital malformation in the new born, folic acid supplements are provided to all women of reproductive age. Pregnant women are also protected against micronutrient deficiencies through the provision of iron supplements. 
Dr. Amal Fawaz has seen a huge improvement in the attitude of women to early prenatal care, as well as the overall reduction in complications during pregnancy, saying: “On average, a pregnant woman receives at least four consultations within the clinic during the course of her pregnancy and UNRWA subsidizes the cost of hospital delivery. We subsequently monitor mothers and new-borns after childbirth, either here in the clinic or through direct home visits.”

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at more than US$ 106  million.

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