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Adolescent girls in disasters are being drastically failed when they are at their most vulnerable, according to a major new report by international children’s organisation Plan International.
Adolescent girls have particular needs for protection, healthcare and education which are not being met, or even recognised, by governments and humanitarians in emergencies, it finds.
The research found that girls are more likely to be pulled out of schools during emergencies – and least likely to return after. It also says girls are given less food when it is scarce, and are more vulnerable to violence, rape, and HIV infection.
Disasters and emergencies also increase the likelihood they will be forced into childhood marriage, domestic work, or transactional sex as ‘coping strategies’.
Valerie Amos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who introduces the report, said: “For too long, girls have been ignored; their views unheard, their needs unmet..This timely report from Plan International focuses on the particular needs of adolescent girls who in the insecurity of a disaster can be especially at risk... they are pulled out of school, married too young or forced to sell their bodies in order to feed and protect their families. There are few places they can turn to for help. This too needs to change.
“Too often, we still follow a ‘one-size-fits all’ pattern of humanitarian response.. Understanding the differing needs of women, girls, boys and men needs to be the responsibility of all humanitarian workers. Without it, we will fail in our task, be ineffective and waste time and resources.”
CEO of Plan International Nigel Chapman said: “Emergencies have an immediate traumatic impact but prolonged humanitarian crises also have a lasting effect for young women which shape the rest of their lives- bringing an abrupt end to their education and forcing them into poor and ill-informed decisions like early marriage, dangerous work and sex work. We must pay more attention to the risks they face.”
Primary research found that since the Haitian earthquake there has been an alarming rise in women and girls involved in selling sex, including adolescent girls who are exploited in the streets and establishments of Jimani, on the Dominican border.
In Haiti pregnancy rates in refugee camps were three times higher than the average urban rate previously. Pregnancy among 15 to 19 year olds is already a leading cause of death.
The report - Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters says donors, governments, decision makers and the humanitarian community must start listening to what girls have to say and allow them to play a role in disaster reduction planning, if they are to begin understanding the differing needs of girls in emergencies.
It recommends: consulting adolescent girls in all stages of disaster preparedness and response, and training and mobilising women to work in emergency response teams.
It says targeted services for adolescent girls in the core areas of education, protection and sexual and reproductive health should be provided and funding should be included for protection against gender-based violence in the first phase of emergency response.
Researchers should also collect sex and age disaggregated data, to show the needs of adolescent girls and also include them in inform programme planning, it says.
“I want someone who I can go to if there are problems. We should be able to tell our government that we need help, that we need shelter, food, jobs, school, places to wash privately. I want a way that I can be heard,” said Sheila, 16, from the Philippines.
For more information and interviews with Adolescent Girls in Emergencies Specialist, Katie Tong, please contact the press desk – firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org