NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–1 February 2010 – Women must be given a key role in all aspects of the emergency relief effort in earthquake-ravaged Haiti for it to be effective and to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable, a United Nations committee warned today.
“The needs and capabilities of women must be taken into consideration in all sectors and clusters of the emergency response, as the role of women in early recovery is critical to effective implementation and long term sustainability,” said Naéla Mohamed Gabr, who heads the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Haiti was rocked on 12 January by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated its capital, Port-au-Prince, with the Government confirming that at least 150,000 people have perished, thousands more are still buried under the rubble and an even larger number made homeless.
CEDAW said in a statement that following such natural disasters the responsibilities of women are greater on account of their roles as caretakers of children, the elderly, the disabled, the injured and other survivors.
“Whilst the strength and resilience of women are in high demand following such emergencies, they cannot adequately fulfil these roles if their basic needs are unmet and if decision-makers ignore them,” said Ms. Gabr. “If women are to look after the needs of others, their own safety, dignity, health and nutritional concerns must be met as well.”
The Committee also noted that in a time of heightened stress, lawlessness and homelessness, women face an increased threat of violence and find it harder to support themselves and other survivors in their care.
“The protection of human rights of women is as important as providing immediate medical attention, food and shelter,” stressed Ms. Gabr in a statement urging emergency assistance teams to put in place a coordinated security system to protect women and children.
Days after the tremor, the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) issued a call for close to $2 million – as part of the world body’s overall $575 million flash appeal – to provide urgently needed services for the protection of women and their families, especially the construction of women’s shelters and expansion of emergency services.