Girls are “invisible” to aid workers and their needs are frequently ignored in emergencies, reveals the latest edition of Plan’s annual State of the World’s Girls reports – launched today on the International Day of the Girl.
In Double Jeopardy investigates what happens to adolescent girls in disasters and how to better protect their rights and well-being. Girls have particular needs for protection, healthcare and education, which are not being met, or even recognized, by governments and humanitarians in emergencies.
The research shows that girls are more likely to be pulled out of schools during emergencies – and least likely to return after. It also shows girls are given less food when it is scarce, and are more vulnerable to violence, rape, and HIV infection.
Disasters and emergencies also increase the likelihood that they will be forced into childhood marriage, domestic work, or transactional sex as ‘coping strategies’.
Forced into danger
Plan Chief Executive Officer Nigel Chapman said: “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.”
Primary research found that since the Haitian earthquake there has been an alarming rise in women involved in selling sex, including adolescent girls who are exploited in the streets and establishments of Jimani, on the Dominican border.
In Haiti pregnancy rates in refugee camps were 3 times higher than the average urban rate. Pregnancy among 15 to 19 year olds is already a leading cause of death.
Listen to girls
The report says donors, governments, decision makers and the humanitarian community must start listening to what girls have to say and allow them to play a role in disaster reduction planning, if they are to begin understanding the differing needs of girls in emergencies.
“I want someone who I can go to if there are problems. We should be able to tell our government that we need help, that we need shelter, food, jobs, school, places to wash privately. I want a way that I can be heard,” said Sheila, 16, from the Philippines.
Read In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls in Disasters here: plan-international.org/girls/