Being a Woman and Receiving Aid in Pakistan

is hard. [That’s what my friend, Mo, wrote when she sent me the link.]

As always in disasters of this kind, it is women and the children they care for who tend to suffer the most — both in the immediate disaster and in the long, uncertain aftermath. This suffering manifests itself in ways that raw statistics cannot measure.

According to the RHRC (Reproductive Health Response in Crises Consortium), 85 percent of persons displaced by the flood are women and children. As the floodwaters rise, they are at acute risk from starvation, exposure, sexual assault and water-borne diseases. However, providing them with assistance is more difficult than these basic facts suggest. In traditional Pakistani society, it is taboo for women to receive aid or medical care from male relief workers, preventing many of them from seeking such aid in the first place.

This particularly applies to pregnant women surprised by the flood. […]

An OCHA report from Aug. 16 states that “the large numbers of children and pregnant and lactating women without access to food and the rising trend of diarrhea point towards a clear risk of malnutrition among the affected population.” But even where food aid is available, fair distribution to those who need it most is almost impossible to ensure. As 12-year-old Shahid Muhammed told IRIN News, “When food is distributed the strongest young men grab it for their own families and push us children aside.”

The dislocation caused by the flood could be particularly upsetting for women in Pakistan’s traditionally conservative rural areas. […]

So who will come out the winner in the coming power struggle? One thing is for certain already: It won’t be Pakistani women.

To donate to help these flood victims, go here.


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