Women, LGBT people 'invisible' victims of disasters – experts

Source(s): Thomson Reuters Foundation, trust.org
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By Zoe Tabary

LONDON - A lack of data on the impact of disasters on women, girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is excluding them from relief efforts and damaging their ability to recover from shocks, experts said on Wednesday.

Cecilia Aipira, an adviser on disaster risk reduction at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said women and girls are most adversely affected by disasters, "but what is missing is the hard evidence of how they're being affected".

"As a result they remain largely invisible in relief and development programmes," she said at the launch of the Centre for Gender and Disaster at University College London on Wednesday.

According to Mami Mizutori, the new chief of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), "disasters do not affect people equally".

"In many parts of the world more women die in disasters than men as a consequence of higher levels of poverty and other forms of discrimination," she said in a statement on Wednesday.

Some 90 percent of those who died in a 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh – one of the deadliest on record – were women, while 77 percent of victims in Indonesia of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami were women and children, according to UN Women.

Women and girls are routinely subjected to sexual and domestic violence following a disaster or conflict, a panel of researchers and campaigners at the launch event noted.

But it is daily manifestations of violence – including domestic violence and harassment – that most hamper their ability to recover from disasters, said Virginie Le Masson, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, a think tank.

Research in Chad from the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme, funded by the British government, shows that discrimination and violence against women limit their access to financial and health resources in times of crises, she added.

Sunil Pant, a Nepalese activist and former politician, said LGBT people also suffer more as a result of disasters and are often denied relief as "they do not fit the traditional family set-up of husband and wife".

"For example, I've seen Nepalese authorities refuse to certify that the houses of two transgender people that had been destroyed in the 2015 earthquake needed to be rebuilt," he told the audience.

Efforts to reduce disaster risks should do more to target LGBT people, Pant said.

"LGBT people in shock-prone countries like Nepal, India and Haiti have zero information on disasters. They've never taken part in earthquake drills and have no idea who to contact in case of an emergency," he added.

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