In crisis situations people need aid quickly to ensure that their basic needs are met. This tends to mean providing shelter, food, water and medical care to those who have been robbed of these necessities. In order to act as fast as possible, aid agencies will usually limit their immediate provision to whatever is considered to be most essential. However, this can differ vastly between different groups.
Children obviously need very different support and their basic needs cannot be met in exactly the same way as those of adults. Equally, elderly and disabled people will likely need tailored relief to account for the particular challenges that they will face in crisis situations. It is important that the specific needs of different groups are not missed in the rush to provide relief to as many people as possible.
Supporting women and girls
A new report by the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC) aims to draw attention to how tailored support could help women overcome their challenges they face in crises. It focuses on highlighting the non-food items (NFIs) that should form an essential part of the support given to women and girls. These are very often different from their male counterparts and, unfortunately, aid agencies are often failing to adequately account for these differences.
The report suggests that female sanitary products, suitable clothing, contraception, and household items, such as bedding, should be treated as basic necessities. Equally, items like torches, whistles and fuel for fires could help to counter the particular safety concerns that women and girls face in emergency situations. As the report suggests, providing relief isn't just about immediate survival and targeted NFI provision could have a major impact.
The importance of targeting
Not only do these provisions account for very clear health concerns, such as unwanted pregnancies and menstrual hygiene, but they would also help women and girls to maintain their dignity. Additionally, women face a very real threat of attack, particularly when they are forced to search for firewood alone, so fuel and whistles to attract attention are essential to keeping women safe. Adopting the reports suggestions could have a profound effect.
Importantly, the GSDRC report argues that the needs of groups in crises cannot be easily generalised. For example, suitable clothing will mean very different things in different cultures. Overcoming these issues will require better training for everyone, as well more female logisticians who are better attuned to gender-sensitive needs. Ensuring the safety and human rights of women and girls in emergency situations depends upon it.
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