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Girls suffer most during disasters: report
Publication Date : 15-10-2013
During times of disaster, adolescent girls are being let down when they are at their most vulnerable, according to a new report from the international children's organisation Plan International released last Friday.
Adolescent girls have particular needs in terms of protection, healthcare and education which are not being met, or even recognised, by governments and humanitarian organisations in emergencies, the report found.
According to the research, girls are more likely to be pulled out of schools during emergencies – and least likely to return afterwards. It also found girls are given less food when it is scarce and are more vulnerable to violence, rape and HIV infection.
Disasters and emergencies also increase the likelihood they will be forced into early marriage and domestic work.
Plan Laos Country Director, Dr Mona Girgis, said the organisation's experience in Laos had shown natural disasters not only had an immediate, traumatic impact, but also a lasting effect on young women that could impact the rest of their lives.
“When education is disrupted, this can force girls into poor and ill-informed decisions like dangerous work,” she said.
“We have to give these risks our full attention, otherwise we are putting girls at risk.”
Laos is prone to natural disasters, particularly during the monsoon season. Flooding and landslides push preparedness measures to the limit as property, crops and livestock are impacted.
Efforts to step up disaster management through the country's first national disaster management plan have been welcomed by organisations like Plan Laos, which works in Bokeo and Oudomxay provinces.
Yet often when disasters hit, already vulnerable groups are left without access to clean water, adequate sanitation facilities and supplies, food, shelter and education. Among the most vulnerable are adolescent girls, whose needs often go unmet.
Plan's report Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters says donors, governments, decision makers and the humanitarian community must start listening to what girls have to say and allow them to play a role in disaster reduction planning if they are to begin to understand the differing needs of girls in emergencies.
It recommends consulting adolescent girls in all stages of disaster preparedness and response and training and mobilising women to work in emergency response teams.
Targeted services for adolescent girls in the core areas of education, protection and sexual and reproductive health should be provided and funding should be included for protection against gender-based violence in the first phase of emergency response.
Researchers should also collect sex and age disaggregated data to show the needs of adolescent girls and also include them in programme planning.
In September, Plan Laos and ChildFund Australia supported local partner organisations to respond to floods and landslides in Baeng district, Oudomxay province. Plan Laos provided clean water, as well as hygiene and household kits.
Students and teachers received school materials while classroom furniture and toilets were repaired so girls and boys could get back to their lessons as soon as possible. In some villages, temporary classrooms were set up.