Manila, Philippines – Women and girls face unique risks and challenges in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) – in fact, in all emergencies.
“In any humanitarian crises, women, especially young and adolescent girls are often among those that suffer the most, in part because of the sexual and reproductive health risks they face, which are also linked to their socio-economic situation and general views society holds of them,” said Dr Shyam Pathak, senior health advisor for the Typhoon Yolanda response of the international non-governmental organization Save the Children.
Specifically, women may be at more risk of sexual abuse and harassment during disasters (READ: Human trafficking post-Yolanda), according to Save the Children and the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), which recently held a seminar on how development workers and other stake holders can help this vulnerable sector.
“Following a disaster, women may be sexually abused, trafficked, or forced to engage in transactional sex. The risk for adolescent girls is even greater as they are often left behind at home while adults look for alternative sources of livelihood,” said Pathak.
“Girls who have had to leave their homes may experience various forms of harassment given the lack of privacy in toilets and sleeping spaces in evacuation centers,” he said. “As a result, they may become pregnant or suffer from sexually transmitted diseases which may have a long term impact on their physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing.”
Earlier this year, children and women’s rights advocate Susan Ople of the Blas Ople Policy Center, demanded the government to impose stricter penalties on human traffickers operating in Yolanda areas.
These safe spaces provide an opportunity for young girls to play and learn.
Adequate sexual and reproductive health education is also provided to the youth.
During the seminar, participants wrote on the “Commitment Wall” their personal pledges on helping female survivors of disasters.
“We would like to be able to help women and children hit by Yolanda in any way we can as Development Management students,” Metta Yanti, an Indonesian student, said.
Save the Children gave them specific critical needs of children and families inside and outside of evacuation centers that they can help address:
- child protection
- health and nutrition
- clean water supplies
- food security
“Women and girls play a crucial role in the rehabilitation and the future of Yolanda-hit provinces. It is important not only to protect them but to give them a voice and enable them to fully participate in emergency preparedness planning and decision-making process,” Pathak concluded.
The general public is encouraged to “write” on the commitment wall as well. How do you intend to help women, girls, children, and families in disaster areas? – Rappler.com
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