ActionAid concerned about safety of women following earthquake in Haiti
The international community must act to ensure the safety of women and girls following the earthquake in Haiti, ActionAid said on Thursday.
With an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, ActionAid is concerned that women are particularly vulnerable to abuse.
In one of the camps ActionAid is working in, several women have reported cases of rape or sexual abuse to our staff. Natural disasters can result in vulnerable women being forced to exchange sex for food to feed their families as well as heightened levels of sexual violence as a result of an absence of the rule of law.
In the camp, women have organised a system for the most vulnerable women to be guarded by volunteers at night. Every afternoon a Haitian police officer visits the camp and residents report whoever has been accused of rape. This has significantly lowered the threat and is a positive sign of community self-organisation, but thousands of other women in Haiti remain at risk.
In the coming weeks, ActionAid will be working to strengthen this women’s committee and set up similar systems in other camps.
The example of this camp shows that Haitians are acting themselves to protect women when they can. However, international efforts in the relief operation and in the longer-term rebuilding of the country must include the safety of women as a high priority.
Myra De Bruijn of ActionAid in Haiti said: “Women are always in danger after natural disasters such as earthquakes and we are already hearing reports of rape. Currently these are isolated incidents but they highlight the fact that women are at risk and must be protected.
“After the 2004 Asian tsunami we saw rape, sexual abuse, sexual discrimination and harassment, as well as domestic violence in camps and we have to make sure that does not happen in Haiti.”
ActionAid, which is part of the relief operation in Haiti, will also ensure that women receive appropriate emergency supplies such as clothing, undergarments and sanitary towels, and that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding receive enough food and nutrients.