Women and children are particularly affected by disasters, accounting for more than 75% of displaced persons.
After floods, earthquakes or conflict, they aren’t just left without shelter and food. They also go without special medical care or defense against dangers like human trafficking. Women are vulnerable to reproductive and sexual health problems, as well as increased rates of sexual and domestic violence.
Moreover, established gender roles often mean that women become the primary caretakers for those affected by disasters – including children, the injured, the sick and the elderly, which substantially increases their workload and emotional burden. A woman’s pre-disaster familial responsibilities are magnified and expanded by the onset of a disaster or emergency, with significantly less support and resources. Women play a central role within the family, securing relief from assistance providers, meeting the immediate survival needs of family members and managing temporary relocation.
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
A crisis increases the likelihood of such violence occurring and threatens the physical safety of women and girls. Even after crises have ended, violence against women and girls may continue at heightened levels. Separation from family during an emergency makes women and girls especially vulnerable to abuse because of their gender, age or reliance on others for assistance or safe passage. While women and girls are the primary targets of SGBV, it should be noted that young boys and men might also be victims of such abuse.
Pregnancy & Reproductive Health
Pregnant women, or those with infants, are a group of particular concern. Given that healthcare facilities may be destroyed or overwhelmed with more urgent cases in the wake of a humanitarian emergency, ensuring that pregnant women receive the necessary care is a priority in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. This includes ensuring that safe, private spaces are created in which women can give birth under the supervision of a birth attendant, providing women with baby clothes and warm blankets in anticipation of childbirth, making available sterile tools for childbirth and providing shelter for women with infants.
For women who are not pregnant but are of childbearing age, ensuring that women have access to necessary sanitary products is also key to their wellbeing.