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Women suffer most after disasters

From last year's tsunami to hurricane Katrina, recent natural disasters have taken a harsh toll on women all over the world, according to a new report.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2005 15:51 IST

From last year's tsunami in Asia to Hurricane Katrina in the United States, recent natural disasters have taken a particularly harsh toll on women, according to a new report.

Women face a variety of hardships during and after natural disasters, according to the report 'Caught in the Storm', released on Tuesday by the San Francisco-based Global Fund for Women, an international human rights group.

These include increased incidence of rape and domestic abuse, insufficient focus on women's health needs by disaster relief groups, and the exclusion of women from critical rebuilding and reconstruction efforts.

"We know that in the best of times, women have a hard time ensuring their economic security and protecting their livelihood," said Kavita Ramdas, president of the Global Fund, in a phone interview. "In the context of disasters, that vulnerability gets exacerbated."

The report's findings were based on firsthand accounts provided by women in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Guatemala, Pakistan and the United States.

Those personal testimonies, along with observations by aid workers on the ground, revealed that women in disaster-affected areas become uniquely susceptible to sexual abuse, the report said.

A 2002 World Health Organisation study of gender and health in natural disasters echoed that claim, noting that "women and girls in disaster situations may be coerced into sex for basic needs such as food, shelter and security."

First Published: Dec 14, 2005 09:21 IST