New York — In immediate response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, UN Women is mobilizing experts and resources to assess the humanitarian needs on the ground. The Government estimates that at least 350,000 people are in dire need of assistance due to the catastrophic storm that hit the southwest coast of the country on 4 October, taking the lives of hundreds by now.
UN Women is coordinating with the Haitian Government and with national women’s groups to assess the damages and to make sure that women and girls can benefit in equal measure from humanitarian assistance. During times of natural disasters and conflicts, women and children often bear the brunt of the crisis, being the last to escape as they prioritize the safety of their family and children. Also, disadvantaged women, such as those with disabilities and the elderly, are often the last ones to receive aid, hampered by social norms, lack of information and the burden of household chores. Post-disaster, women and girls are more vulnerable to rape, sexual violence and exploitation.
“Women’s needs and voices often remain unheard in humanitarian emergencies, but that inevitably delays the recovery process. We need to react quickly to assess the situation in order to ensure that the specific needs and concerns of women and girls are both reflected and incorporated in international relief efforts,” said Anthony Ngororano, UN Women Haiti Country Representative.
Concretely, UN Women will support social services in the affected areas to ensure swift identification of women and girls in need of assistance and protection as a result of the hurricane. The emergency response will include the development of support systems to prevent and respond to gender-based violence against women among affected populations. This includes, for instance, the setting up of multipurpose safe spaces for women and girls, as a means of providing ongoing protection and gender-based violence interventions. In the longer term UN Women will also seek to strengthen services for hurricane-affected women survivors of violence in the most heavily affected parts in the south of the country.
UN Women also stands ready to provide further additional assistance as needed after the initial assessment is concluded.
UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. For more information, visit www.unwomen.org. UN Women, 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017, New York. Tel: +1 646 781-4400. Fax: +1 646 781-4496.