'Natural disasters' increase triggers for violence against women and girls

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“Natural disasters” triggered by climate change and other natural hazards increase the triggers for violence against women and girls by increasing the resources, opportunities and underlying drivers. A review of the available evidence can be found in the online journal BMJ Global Health.

As these disasters become more frequent, severe and prolonged worldwide, this consequence must now be officially recognized in strategies for public health, violence prevention and disaster management, the researchers urge.

In the past two decades, 7,348 natural disasters have been recorded. This is almost twice as much as between 1980 and 1999. Between 2008 and 2017, most (84%) of all registered disasters were due to climate problems.

The researchers base their conclusions on a systematic review of the available published evidence, examining the relationship between natural disasters and violence against women and girls.

Of 37 relevant studies, 20 were quantitative, 16 were qualitative (interviews; case studies), and 1 was a mixed-method design. They assessed exposure to disasters caused by various types of natural hazards such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes.

The violence was mainly physical, psychological and sexual. Some studies also looked at murder, controlling or aggressive behavior, forced marriage, and financial violence.

More than a third (37%) of the perpetrators were current or former partners, 15% relatives, 12% strangers, 11% persons in authority, 8% friends / neighbors, and 16.5% unspecified or other types of perpetrators.

Eight of the 20 quantitative studies found that natural disasters were linked to increasing violence against women and girls, and four others found positive associations with certain types of violence.

Five found no link between natural disasters and violence against women and girls, but two reported exceptionally high rates of this type of violence before a natural disaster occurred.

However, the researchers note that violence against women is often underreported, a factor that became evident in the qualitative studies.

Violence against women and girls after natural disasters was described in the 16 qualitative studies and the one mixed method study.

Three main possible triggers emerged: an increase in stressors that trigger violence, such as trauma, mental health problems, financial insecurity; an increase in framework conditions, such as the lack of police, health and support services, the breakdown of family structures and social isolation; and a deterioration in existing drivers such as gender and social inequalities, lack of representation and inclusion of women, etc.

Health consequences for women include unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, miscarriages, sexually transmitted infections, poor overall maternal and baby health, physical injuries, mental health problems, and deaths from murder or suicide, the researchers said.

Despite being the first globally known systematic review of the impact of natural disasters on the risk of violence for women and girls, researchers acknowledge the lack of high quality, rigorously designed studies and the shortcomings of the exposure and outcome measures used in the studies included.

“Better quality research, with wider geographic scope and the use of standardized exposure and outcome measures, is critical to generating further knowledge of the scale of the problem and the mechanisms behind it,” they write.

“As the population is increasingly affected by climate-related disasters and [violence against women and girls] can have serious and lasting effects on health, existing knowledge must enable rapid action in policy and practice, “they insist.

“At the political level, greater awareness of disasters [violence against women and girls]sex-specific [disaster relief] Politics and the involvement of women in disaster management are crucial.

‘In addition, systems for rapid and effective coordination between disaster management, law enforcement and health authorities need to be clearly defined to prevent this from happening [this type of violence] and address its health consequences, “they conclude.

Domestic violence increases after natural disasters – prevention must be part of the emergency response

More information:
Natural Hazards, Disasters, and Violence Against Women and Girls: A Global Mixed-Method Systematic Review, DOI: 10.1136 / bmjgh-2020-004377 Provided by the British Medical Journal

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