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Women in peril

IT is highly likely that when the cumulative human cost caused by the floods is added up a few months down the line, the toll would be higher for women than for men. Evidence gathered in the aftermath of a number of natural disasters around the world clearly shows that women bear a disproportionate burden of loss in terms of death, disease and emotional trauma. In fact, according to the UN, `when disaster strikes, women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die`. Take, for example, the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean that claimed around 230,000 lives. A staggering 70pc of them were women. The disparity between the impact of disasters on men and women was also observed during the Covid-19 pandemic, when deaths and injuries from domestic abuse spiked because women, although ironically more resilient against the virus, were locked in with abusive partners.

In this context, while the flood may have seriously impacted Pakistan`s economy, agricultural output and created serious food insecurity among other things, the cumulative material, physical and psychological impact being felt by millions of women cannot even be measured. Having lost their homes and the privacy that afforded, they are faced with challenges others can scarcely imagine. In a patriarchal society where women`s needs are often not taken seriously even by their own family members, it is safe to assume that in these circumstances the general and specific physiological and even medical requirements of af fected women (such as washrooms, sanitary and childbirth kits) are far from being met. Around 8.2m women of reproductive age have been affected by the floods, out of which around 650,000 are pregnant: 73,000 are reportedly due this month. The health of the infants being born during this calamity is also inherently linked to their mothers` health. Women and children must be at the core of the authorities` relief and medical responses and a coherent strategy developed with international aid organisations to address their immediate and shortterm needs.