“In addition to the general effects of natural disasters and lack of health care, women are vulnerable to reproductive and sexual health problems, and increased rates of sexual and domestic violence.”
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
The Center for Women’s Research has released its findings that the recent calamities that hit Northern Mindanao has hit women and children the hardest.
In a report, the CWR cited data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) that tropical storm Sendong (internationally known as Washi) left a trail of destruction leaving 1,268 dead, majority of whom were women and children. There were still undetermined number of missing persons. More than 6,071 were injured and 125, 256 families were affected.
The NDRRMC estimates the damage in infrastructure and agriculture to reach more than P1.7 billion. Thousands of houses were also ruined.
“Even without a strong typhoon like Sendong, many Filipinos are still being devastated by floods and landslides caused only by heavy monsoon rains. Based on NDRRMC reports, not a single typhoon has entered the country yet for this year, but many areas particularly in Visayas and Mindanao have already experienced floods and landslides. NDRRMC report showed 52 casualties, including the 42 from the landslide in Pantukan, Compostela Valley. Thousands of families are affected and many were brought to evacuation centers,” the CWR said.
According to the research center, calamities take the greatest toll on children and women, especially on pregnant, old-aged and women with disabilities.
“There is also high vulnerability of sexual abuse and harassment especially in evacuation centers,”it said.
A previous study made by the CWR revealed that women victims of calamities have to contend with at least four issues that are the result of falling victim to natural calamities. In the study, the group discovered that women are forced to take extra jobs.
“During calamities, the regular sources of income of husbands are disrupted. Women are expected to find alternative sources of living. Women take on various jobs such as house helpers, launderers, vending, sewing, etc. This is an added burden to women since they are still the ones expected to do the housework for their own homes,” the group said.
The CWR also said that in the immediate wake of calamties, the number of women contracting diseases such as urinary tract infection, diarrhea and lung complications rise. After Typhoon Sendong, there were 377 recorded cases of leptospirosis among women and 24 have died.
In the meantime, women also become more vulnerabe to sexual abuse.
“There is higher prevalence of violence against women. In evacuation centers, due to food shortage, there are cases of “isang gabi, isang salop” (sexual favors in exchange for a ganta of rice). There have also been cases of physical abuse by husbands who get drunk in order to escape the reality of suffering in the evacuation centers,”the CWR repoted.
Finally, the research instituion said many women also experience psychological stress or trauma after the calamity.
“It worsens everyday as they bear the burden of securing food for their families,”it said.
Flashfloods, landslides in January and February
Since January 5, several provinces have been severely hit by flooding and landslides. Last January 5, a landslide happened in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, killing 42. There were also similar landslides and flooding in Regions 6, 8, 9 and Caraga. Four people were killed, while 18,570 families were affected with a total of 88,722 members. Forced to take shelter in evacuation centers were 87, 1,813 families.
On February 9, there was a flashflood that resulted in a landslide, a rockslide, and river overflows in Camarines Sur, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, Saranggani, Davao Oriental, and Surigao del Norte. There were 4 casualties, and 1,492 affected families who were all taken to evacuation centers. These families had a total of 7,517 members.
That same say, Zamboanga del Norte was flooded, causing devastation to 3,263 families and a total of 13,052 persons from 12 barangays. A flashflood hit Misamis Oriental also on February 9, affecting 702 families and their 3,771 members from 21 barangays.
Finally, from February 14 to 16, flooding, flashfloods, and a landslide befell Regions 8, 10 and the Caraga 2 Region. Two were killed, and 6,000 families were affected with 29,589 members from 96 barangays. A total of 709 families were forced to seek refuge in evacuation centers.
Disasters affect women differently
According to the United Nations, disasters affect women and men differently. The United Nations Handbook for Estimating the Socioeconomic and Environmental Effects of Disaster (2003) emphasizes that one consequence of disaster “is the decapitalization of women and the reduction of their share of productive activities in the formal and informal sectors.”
According to the UN, women are disadvantaged in two ways: “Not only do they sustain direct damages or production losses (housing and means of production), but they also . . . lose income when they have to apply themselves temporarily to unpaid emergency tasks and an increased amount of unpaid reproductive work, such as caring for their children when schools are closed . . . Such reproductive work is usually granted a lower status than paid work . . . . It is also a continuous job . . . which limits women’s mobility and can sometimes even prevent them from exercising their rights as citizens.”
In the meantime, research by the World Health Organization revealed that women and children account for more than 75 percent of displaced persons in the aftermath of calamities.
“In addition to the general effects of natural disasters and lack of health care, women are vulnerable to reproductive and sexual health problems, and increased rates of sexual and domestic violence. Moreover, gender roles dictate that women become the primary caretakers for those affected by disasters – including children, the injured and sick, and the elderly – substantially increasing their emotional and material work load. Women’s vulnerability is further increased by the loss of men and/or livelihoods, especially when a male head of household has died and the women must provide for their families. Post disaster stress symptoms are often but not universally reported more frequently by women than men,” it said.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in its own study said that from 1999 to 2008, floods affected almost one billion people in Asia, 28 million in the Americas, 22 million in Africa and four million in Europe.