HAITI – Save the Children fears increase of violence against women and girls
Almost three weeks since earthquake, thousands are going hungry and sleeping outside
Les Cayes, 2 Sept – Violence against girls and women could start rising soon in the areas of Haiti hardest hit by an earthquake almost three weeks ago as people start to take desperate measures just to survive, Save the Children warned today.
The situation for children in Les Cayes is getting more desperate by the day, Save the Children warned, since a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the south of the country.
Even before the earthquake, gender based violence was seen as one of the highest risks for girls and women in the southern province, with sexual exploitation prevalent in some parts and women afraid to go outside in the evening.
“Women and girls already lived with the fear that they could become a victim at any moment,” said Perpetue Vendredi, Save the Children’s deputy country director. “And if it happens, they often don’t report it out of fear of retaliation or stigma.”
The earthquake has exacerbated the situation with thousands still sleeping outside and in dire need of food, clean water, shelter and mental health support, according to an assessment by the organisation. There is a lack of electricity, toilets are shared and health facilities were impacted.
These circumstances could drive women and girls to resort to desperate measures such as succumbing to sexual exploitation or child labour to survive.
“It is a very real risk and with health centres that provide care for survivors of gender based violence damaged in the earthquake, we need urgent action to protect women and girls, and ensure they have access to medical and mental health services. They need access to financial support, so they don’t have to resort to these desperate measures,” Ms Vendredi continued.
“The world cannot forget about Haiti and the incredibly dangerous situation for children – especially girls.”
Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit has deployed to the area to provide primary health care and to focus on the prevention of (sexual) violence against girls and women.
Save the Children is calling on the international community to ensure the humanitarian response to the earthquake is adequately funded, including the care of survivors of gender based violence, and to support the safe and unhindered access of aid organisations to the hardest hit communities.