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World Health Stat Q. 1993;46(4):227-33.

Natural and man-made disasters: the vulnerability of women-headed households and children without families.

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  • 1Universit√© catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.

Abstract

Since 1980, over 2 million people have died as an immediate result of natural and man-made disasters and by 1992, the refugee population registered nearly 16 million people. This article reviews the human impact of disasters as a composite of two elements: the catastrophic event itself and the vulnerability of people. It also examines the specific case of women and children in the current world emergency context. It identifies four broad policy areas that affect women and children in disaster situations and discusses them with examples and field evidence. The first policy area addresses humanitarian assistance and armed conflicts, and armed conflict and international humanitarian law, the use of food as instrument of war, mines and civilian disability, and rape and sexual violence are discussed within this context. The second problem discussed is the issue of unaccompanied and abandoned children in terms of its magnitude and implications for relief response. Thirdly, the article examines the differential risks in emergencies for mortality and morbidity, specifically for women and children. Finally, it addresses certain policies and approaches to disaster rehabilitation which effectively mirror and reinforce inherent inequities in the affected society. The article notes that: (i) the largest proportion of disaster victims today arise from civil strife and food crises and that the majority of those killed, wounded and permanently disabled are women and children; and (ii) the ability of any country to respond effectively to disasters depends on the strength of its health and social infrastructure, and its overall developmental status. It concludes by identifying seven areas where concrete measures could be taken to improve the current situation.

PMID:
8017082
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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