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'Pakistan's women worst prepared in region for natural disasters' - NGO

Source(s):  Thomson Reuters Foundation, (TRF)

By Alisa Tang

Bangkok (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
Women in Pakistan - the South Asian country with the highest death toll from natural disasters over the past decade - are the region's least resilient when it comes to preparing for and recovering after these crises, an ActionAid report said.

Pakistan lagged behind other seven other countries measured, reflecting women's lower socio-economic status in that country, ActionAid said in its South Asia Women’s Resilience Index report.

The non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to create an index on a scale of 1 to 100 to measure women's resilience across seven South Asian countries, with Japan as a developed-country benchmark.

The index examined four categories - economic, infrastructure, institutional and social - to assess the capacity of each country's women to adapt to and recover from sudden, unanticipated events.

It found that Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, the Maldives and Bangladesh - scoring from 40 to 46.4 - are half as resilient as Japan, which scored 80.6. Pakistan ranks last, scoring 27.8.

"Across the region, women's resilience isn't being considered in national planning to ensure women can plan for and recover from natural disasters," Melissa Bungcaras, resilience and disaster risk reduction adviser to ActionAid Australia, said by phone from Kathmandu.

The report was launched in Nepal's capital at the People's South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (People’s SAARC) summit, a meeting of NGOs and civil society groups.

Of the countries included in the report, Pakistan and India lost the most lives in disasters between 1995 and 2014, with 174,187 and 99,357 deaths respectively.

Pakistan is highly vulnerable to earthquakes and floods, and suffered $26 billion in damage over the past two decades, the report said.

The 2010 floods alone - which affected more than 10 percent of the country's 180 million people - led to losses of nearly $10 billion, about 6 percent of the country's GDP.


The report said that women and girls were overlooked in the 2010 floods, prompting the government to set up a "gender and child cell" within its national disaster management authority.

The unit developed national policy guidelines this year on vulnerable groups in disasters, prioritising gender issues in monsoon contingency plans for the first time - for example in the provision of supplies likely to be needed by women in disaster situations.

But the report said the guidelines had not yet been implemented.

"There's definitely a gap between policies being put in place and practice on the ground," Bungcaras said.

"There are many good examples of policies in place, but the reality is that those policies aren't translating into better outcomes in those communities, so there's still work to be done to make sure national policy is translated to the local level."

Hurdles to implementing Pakistan's policy include the fact that there are few women working in the national disaster management system, the report said.

"There need to be more women: not only those that understand the issue, but we need to promote more leaders. The challenge is also to involve women and girls in the communities, for instance, such as the Girl Guides, who have knowledge and skills relevant to disaster response," Farhat Sheik, programme manager of the gender and child unit, said in the report.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)


The South Asia Women's Resilience Index

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  • Publication date 25 Nov 2014

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