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Call for Women protection in disasters

Call for Women protection in disasters

By: Asma Ghani

Islamabad – Pakistan is among 11 disaster prone countries and continuous war on terror, poverty and vulnerability to disasters like earthquakes and floods has hampered the persistent efforts to protect vulnerable population, including women and girls, against these calamities.

The health needs of women and adolescents are too often neglected in humanitarian response to natural disasters and conflicts around the world, including Pakistan, says UNFPA report, The State of World Population 2015 on “SHELTER FROM THE STORM”-a transformative agenda for women and girls in a crisis-prone world – launched yesterday.

The other countries most at risk of disaster-induced poverty are Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda, says the report.

Quoting UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the report says about 5.3 million people displaced within the country mainly from Khyber Agency, Mohamnad Orakzai, Bajaur, South Waziristan Agencies FATA etc. due to complex emergency. And an estimated 39.7 million people affected in Pakistan from 2010 to 2015 starting from devastating flood and natural disasters.

The report highlighted that the urban population growth has become increasingly concentrated in developing countries, where 1.2 million people are migrating to cities every week. The urbanisation in Pakistan is also increasingly and this along with population growth affecting the resource planning. “The business-as-usual approach to humanitarian assistance will leave too many behind at a time when needs are so great,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr Osotimehin said. “We need to do a much better job of helping the most vulnerable, especially adolescent girls. But we must also do a much better job of investing in a more stable world, capable of withstanding the storms ahead. For the pregnant woman who is about to deliver, or the adolescent girl who survived sexual violence, life-saving services are as vital as water, food and shelter,” said Dr Osotimehin in the report. “About 100 million people in need of humanitarian assistance around the world today, about 26 million are women and adolescent girls in their childbearing years. Sexual and reproductive health services critical to the health and survival of women and adolescents are scarcest at the time they are needed the most. Three fifths of maternal deaths today occur in countries that are considered fragile because of conflict or disaster. Pregnancy and childbirth related complications kill 507 women every day in these settings,” shared the findings of the report by Sarah Masale, UNFPA Acting Representative.

About three fifths of maternal deaths around the world take place in humanitarian and fragile contexts, said Saira Afzal Tarar, Minister of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination at the launching ceremony. “When crises occur, women and girls are disproportionately affected, and are less likely to be prepared or empowered to cope. While significant progress has been made globally in the past decade to provide services to women and girls in humanitarian situations, there are still gaps in action and in funding,” she said. She said the federal and provincial governments are closely working in collaboration with all stakeholders to explore and strengthen the mechanisms for humanitarian relief operations in the country.” said the minister. There are present opportunities for a more coordinated approach to be adopted for to address the life-saving needs of vulnerable and affected communities in the instance of any disaster, particularly so given the scarcity of resources,” she said.

The State of World Population report calls for better shelter to help women and adolescent girls dying during pregnancies in disaster and conflicts.

It also calls to provide them with critical basic services like maternal health and contraception necessary to save women’s lives and enable adolescents to make a safe and healthy transition to adulthood, with their rights and dignity intact.

The Nation

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