Then we keep failing | Sunday Observer

Then we keep failing

The Covid-19 pandemic is still in the headlines. As for the people of Asia right now, the cyclone Amphan, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal, is causing massive destruction placing the Covid-19 pandemic in second place in the priority list.

By now, when you are reading this write up, the storm may have passed and there will be new news with damage assessment. How many reported deaths, how many people are misplaced, what type of aid is provided and where humanitarian assistance is will be the type of information people will be more interested in.

The experts may try to evaluate the aftermath of the disaster unearthing more information to understand the impact on health and living conditions. Then, there will be all types of discussions, analysis and findings not only on the physical and social well-being of the people but in multiple aspects and areas. These studies not only help the recovery process but will become the lessons learnt to help in future disaster preparedness. Therefore, the measures can be taken to mitigate the effects of disasters to a certain degree.

At present, planning ahead for disasters with action plans and practising them is no longer only a household responsibility or a voluntary community effort. Disaster management and preparedness is a government responsibility as part of their job to ensure the quality of life of the people.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency of the USA defines ‘Prevention’ as “actions to avoid an incident or to intervene to stop an incident from occurring. Prevention involves actions to protect lives and property, and preparedness as “a continuous cycle of planning, organising, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response.”

As long as we exist, we will not be able to pause in the cause of disaster preparedness.

As for cyclone Amphan too, communities in the areas predicted to be affected were prepared so as to reduce the impact of the disaster. India evacuated people from coastal areas to shelter. Bangladesh prepared their camps for temporary housing. From volunteers warning communities about the cyclone’s arrival to having international aid agencies standby to help the people, there have been many precautionary measures taken.

However, while we are clearly able to see the loss and the destruction caused by calamities, we often fail to recognise the fact that women and girls suffer most in these situations created by any disaster. Studies and research seem to neglect documenting the harmful impact on women and girls by including gender based violence as an effect of disasters in every context.

In order to provide a protective system for girls and women in disaster management, we neglect to recognise gender based vulnerability as a problem that must be included in well researched disaster preparedness plans and recovery programs. Instead, the world seems to brush off many dimensions of gender based violence happening in calamitous events. It is no secret that girls and women are the most vulnerable to abuse without having the mental or physical capacity to prevent the risk under the circumstances.

One may argue that this is not a simple matter that can be addressed easily. It’s true. From a household in the post-cyclone Amphan disaster to a Moria refugee camp, the rise of gender-based violence and violence against women and girls is an issue more complicated than what we know. But at least, in a situation like the corona lockdown how many administrations predicted and expected and were prepared, at least, regarding domestic violence against women and girls?

Now, one may ask aren’t we all vulnerable to danger and abuse in these disasters? We all are vulnerable during catastrophic events, but women and girls are more vulnerable and they suffer more because of the failure of the system. In such a system, there will be no successful recovery no matter what strategy is in place to rebuild.

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