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Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities Most Vulnerable to Typhoon Haiyan

Super Typhoon Haiyan impacted 11.3 million people—that’s more than live in Beijing—and displaced 800,000. Among these, the most vulnerable are women, children, youth and persons with disabilities. Nearly 300,000 pregnant women and new mothers need food aid. Nearly one million children live in the hardest-hit areas, including almost 200,000 adolescent girls.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by natural disasters: roughly 80 percent of those who died in the 2004 tsunami were women and girls. Why?

Discrimination before a crisis undermines women's economic and social status, which limits their survival skills and their ability to receive warnings and stay out of harm's way.


Women and girls who survive face overwhelming obstacles. The immediate consequences—shock, displacement, sexual violence and exploitation, disruptions in health services and the loss of financial security within a family unit—can lead to devastating short- and long-term effects.

The Women's Refugee Commission has developed a list of the top ten critical needs to consider in the response to Typhoon Haiyan.

And there are several very important principles to prioritize through the entire response and recovery:


Refugees, including women and youth, should be consulted in every aspect of the recovery to determine their different needs and capacities.


During emergencies, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to all forms of gender based violence, including physical abuse and exploitation, rape and early marriage. An estimated 49,000 women of reproductive age are at risk of sexual violence in areas impacted by Typhoon Haiyan. There is also growing evidence that rates of violence may be 4 to 10 times greater among persons with disabilities than their non-disabled peers, which has significant implications for their physical protection in displacement settings. The WRC guide “Displaced Women and Girls at Risk: Identifying Risk Factors and Taking Steps to Prevent Abuse” contains a checklist of how to identify those at risk, and how to protect women and girls before gender-based violence happens. Rapid response to sexual violence is no less critical: treatment within three days of an assault can prevent HIV infection and within five days can reduce the risk of pregnancy.

Reproductive Health

Women and girls’ reproductive health needs must be met in the days and months after a crisis. Roughly 95,270 pregnant and 190,540 lactating women live in the typhoon-affected areas, with 4,660 pregnant and 8,990 lactating women in evacuation centers.

The standard of sexual and reproductive health care for emergencies outlines critical needs and solutions. Among other provisions, childbirth facilities, staff and supplies must exist—including emergency care for the estimated 15 percent of pregnant women who suffer from complications. HIV can spread quickly if unaddressed, so condoms must be widely available and transfused blood must be screened. Interruptions in antiretroviral treatment can endanger refugees and allow the disease to mutate dangerously, so medication must be available.


While the immediate focus is on addressing shelter, food, water and medical needs, it is also critical to provide economic opportunities and preserve households' existing assets. Helping typhoon survivors recover a sustainable income has direct connections to nutrition, health and protection from violence and abuse. Women and girls in particular can be protected from sexual exploitation by providing them with safe, viable economic opportunities.


Sexual and Gender-Based Violence