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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF doctors reach pregnant women in relief camps

© UNICEF India/2005
UNICEF doctor demonstrates ante-natal care in camp.

TAMIL NADU, India, 5 January 2005 - Like many people in her village in Pattinacheery, Radhika, 20 began running when she heard a threatening rumble from the sea. But Rahhika, unlike her neighbors, was eight months pregnant.

She survived and is now living in a relief camp housed in the Govinda Ammal Govindaswami wedding hall in Nagapattinam district with some 450 other people who are also homeless.

A UNICEF medical team gave her a checkup on a visit to Nagapattinam to assess the health status of children in relief camps. The visiting team was doing rounds in 20 urban relief camps on January 4.

The team worked with the district health authorities to obtain a clearer picture of the children's needs in order to respond with appropriate health and nutrition interventions.

Though in a crowded relief camp, Radhika had the right to ante-natal care that every expectant mother needs. To assist pregnant mothers, UNICEF's doctor Praveen Khobragade gave demonstrations of a basic ante-natal check up to teach multi-purpose health workers (MPHW) that are present in relief camps.

The demonstration included checking for danger signs that could lead to obstetric complications such as oedema, anaemia and dehydration.

"You need to find out if she has had her tetanus toxoid injection, whether she is eating well or not and whether she is getting adequate rest. You need to check her blood pressure and her pulse, check her weight and maintain records," he told the multi-purpose health worker VG Uma Maheshwari.


© UNICEF India/2005
A UNICEF doctor examines a baby living in a relief camp.

During the assessment of the health conditions in the camps, S. Poongadi, another 20-year old expectant mother, also in the eighth month
of pregnancy, was identified.

Dr. Khobragade diagnosed her anemia and immediately prescribed iron folic acid and calcium tablets. To make sure that she ate enough, Dr Khobragade recommended a simple strategy. "When meals are distributed in the camp, let her pick up an extra plate of food. That way she could save one for when she is hungry between meals," he said.

The UNICEF team discovered a third pregnant woman in the camp named Panchali. She was not as lucky as the other two. All of her three children ages five, four and two are missing. Women in the camp said she is suffering from depression. "It is not food or home that she longs for. It is her children," said her neighbor Kalaiyarasi.

UNICEF is also working out with the Government of Tamil Nadu to obtain the necessary logistics and to secure supplies for an immediate measles vaccination campaign.

"It is critical to protect children from a possible outbreak of measles in situations like relief camps," explained Dr Khobragade. "The overall routine immunization level in Tamil Nadu State is over 85 percent, but we are not prepared to take any chances. We want to support the district health services to protect the health and survival of every child in the camp."

In conjunction with the campaign, UNICEF will also provide vitamin A supplementation to children. The measles and vitamin A campaign will be aimed at children between six months and five years of age who live in the worst-affected districts in Tamil Nadu.




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