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Flood-hit women seek protection

ISLAMABAD: Women from the flood-hit areas on Tuesday urged the government to take urgent steps for their protection, saying they continue to bear the brunt of the natural disaster one year on.

Talking with Dawn, women attending a public forum on “rebuilding lives post flood 2010” organised by ActionAid Pakistan and its local partners, expressed serious concern over denial of rights after the floods.

They regretted that women were not included in the government`s relief and reconstruction packages. They said majority of women were not entitled to receive Watan cards and had no separate food distribution centres.

Misbah Farid from Kot Addu said she had to travel by foot to a safer place for miles after giving a caesarean birth. She said health facilities in the aftermath of the natural disaster were inadequate.

Rizwana, from the same area, said special arrangements should have been made for pregnant women. “We are getting substandard food and there is no milk for children.” She added that absence of separate toilets for women in transitional camps was another major issue for them.

Shabana Yasmeen from Shuhdadkot she had to go across a mountain to reach a safer place.

Zainan from Layyah said the flood destroyed livestock and many people, including her family, lost their livelihood.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the forum, the flood affected people urged the government to immediately announce a long-term agricultural rehabilitation programme. They said provision of livestock, poultry, seed and fertilisers to small farmers, particularly women peasants, must be ensured.

They also demanded starting cash for work and kitchen gardening projects and above all “including women in all decision making processes”.

Jemal Ahmed, country director ActionAid Pakistan, termed the biggest ever flood last year in Pakistan`s history had serious impact on public and household development initiatives.

Touqeer Fatima Bhutto, Sindh`s minister for women development, acknowledged that women were not “prioritised in government flood response mechanism”, particularly in the case of Watan cards. However the Sindh government pioneered a movement to distribute land among flood affected women peasants` she pointed out.

Responding to criticism over ineffective role played by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) during the natural calamity, Anika Khan, gender advisor Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said the two institutions were merely responsible for coordinating flood response at all levels.

She added that NDMA lacked resources and manpower to play a meaningful role. She regretted that there was no gender cell in NDMA or PDMA.

Source: Dawn

Date:7/27/2011

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