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Day of the Girl

Women and children 14 times more likely to die during disasters

Adolescent girls in disasters are being drastically failed when they are at their most vulnerable, says CEO of Plan Ireland.

A NEW REPORT published today finds that women and children are more at danger during times of natural disasters.

The report shows that incidences of sexual assault, rates of prostitution and unwanted pregnancies significantly increase in areas hit by natural disasters.

Girls in natural disasters

The report entitled Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls: Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters found that almost 9 out 10 women affected by the 2004 tsunami in India and 6 out of 10 in Sri Lanka had experienced sexual violence within two years of the disaster.

Researchers also investgated the Haitian earthquake and found that there has been an alarming rise in women and girls involved in selling sex, including adolescent girls who are exploited in the streets and establishments on the Dominican border.

Haitian pregnancy rates in refugee camps were three times higher than the average urban rate.

At risk

The research shows that during times of disasters and emergencies there is an increased likelihood that “girls will be forced into childhood marriage, domestic work or transactional sex as coping strategies”.

Girls are more likely to be pulled out of schools during emergencies and less likely to return than boys and they are given less food in disasters when it is scarce.

Plan Ireland CEO, David Dalton said that as today is International Day of the Girl, it’s appropriate to highlight that adolescent girls in disasters are being “drastically failed when they are at their most vulnerable”. He added:

Emergencies have an immediate traumatic impact but prolonged humanitarian crises also have a lasting effect for young women which shape the rest of their lives – bringing an abrupt end to their education and forcing them into poor and ill-informed decisions like early marriage, dangerous work and sex work. We must pay more attention to the risks they face.

Plan Ireland recommends that proper training and mobilisation needs to be ensured during times of an emergency stating that targeted services for adolescent girls in the core areas of education, protection and sexual and reproductive health should be provided.

Read: What causes a sinkhole?>

Column: Haiti – Three years on from devastation>

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