A team of experts from ActionAid Australia recently visited evacuation shelters in Port Vila, Vanuatu to report on conditions facing women who have been displaced by Cyclone Pam. Here’s what they describe:
Pregnant women are sleeping on thin mats on the ground. Men and women share sleeping spaces. The evacuation centers are barely lit at night, if lit at all. At night time, women have to find their way in the dark to the toilets that are shared with the men. There is nowhere to wash, except in the rivers. Adequate sanitary items haven’t been distributed, and women are using toilet paper – if they have access to it.
There is a growing awareness that mega-disasters disproportionately affect women and other vulnerable populations, and that these groups have different needs than men following displacement. And yet, vulnerable groups are routinely denied the measure of protection they deserve – protection they are entitled to under law – disaster after disaster after disaster.
Consider the 2011 Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster that displaced more than 300,000 people. Officials at multiple government-run shelters denied requests from evacuees to put up dividers, which meant that women were housed alongside men they didn’t know, and publicly exposed when changing clothes or nursing an infant. Continue reading “Sheltering Vulnerable Populations in Vanuatu – Lessons Unlearned”