Friday, November 15, 2013

Keep women and children safe from rape and sexual abuse in disaster areas

Joint Statement of Partido ng Manggagawa Women’s Committee and Women’s Day Off
15 November 2013

It’s the 6th day of the aftermath of super-typhoon Yolanda.  Food distribution, power and water supplies, communication and transportation have remained big problems.  Hence, victims have become hungrier and more desperate.  According to Secretary Ochoa, government needs to produce 146,000 relief packs a day.  So far, it has only been able to produce 50,000 per day.  Various groups, families of victims and individuals have mobilized relief goods but these could not compensate for the big shortage.  Logically, a significant number of people have been going hungry for days.

Today, the situation has become even more distressing as confirmed reports of rape began to surface, particularly in Tacloban City.  Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and Women’s Day Off fear that the same thing may be happening in other affected areas especially in towns/sitios where power has not been restored and the local government non-functional.  Moreover, the consequent deprivation of food and water for days increases the danger of coercive sexual encounters among women and children.

The impact of disasters such as Yolanda on reproductive health can be devastating.  We are equally concerned with displaced women who will be pregnant, face delivery under dangerous conditions, and others who may be victims of violence.  In addition to food and water, and other basic needs, we expect the need for reproductive health services and information to persist and even escalate.

The Philippine government should immediately set-up temporary refuge/shelters to house women and children to isolate them from the risk of rape and other forms of sexual abuse.  In the absence of hospitals or clinics nearby, makeshift health facilities with essential items to ensure the health of women and newborns should likewise be set-up.  Finally, makeshift toilets and baths with locks should also be constructed for the use of women and children.  Their safety is as vital.  Recovery and rehabilitation will take time, hence, the importance of these temporary structures and services for women and children.

No comments: