Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Emergencies

Delivery of the first baby at the Red Cross field hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Delivery of the first baby at the Red Cross field hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

In developing countries, women and children bear the greatest burden of disease. When those countries face conflict or disaster, it is women’s and children’s health and lives that are most affected. Strong emergency response capacity within these countries is therefore essential.
The Canadian Red Cross is part of a larger global Red Cross family that can respond to the needs of women and children in disaster-affected communities. As part of our commitment, the Canadian Red Cross supports our Red Cross and Red Crescent partners to develop greater capacity and effectiveness to increase the survival of mothers, newborns and children during emergencies.

Our approach to Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) in emergencies is based on recognition of the critical role of preparedness and the link between long term development and emergency response. We have two ways of responding to these needs in emergency settings:

  1. Emergency Health Services
  2. Community Outreach

During an emergency, the Canadian Red Cross and partners are able to deploy health care units or field hospitals Emergency Response Unit (ERUs), which provide critical health services to women, children and their families. These units are equipped with materials, equipment, and specialized personnel to provide care in support of affected health systems.

Depending on the context, Red Cross activities may also include:

  • Rapid assessments of the health sector with UN and other inter-agency coordination mechanisms.
  • Re-establishing the delivery of essential care services to women, newborns and children with a main focus on:  treatment of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea; maternal health services; immunization; nutrition (breastfeeding and essential infant and young child feeding), HIV prevention and treatment; and services for victims of sexual violence and child abuse.
  • Re-establishment of disrupted referral systems by facilitating transport and communication between communities, health centres and hospitals.
  • Community-based triage and referral of women and children to functioning health facilities and, where deployed, the basic health care emergency unit.
  • Clean delivery kits to pregnant women and birth attendants to assist in maternal and newborn survival if access to a health facility is not possible.
  • Promoting key health education messages to affected communities with a focus on available health services, recognizing danger signs, and managing the most common life-threatening conditions.