The massive earthquake in Nepal and its aftershocks have already claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people. But for thousands of women and girls, even more horror may lie ahead.
According to US officials, nearly 320,000 households headed by women lie in areas most impacted by the earthquake and its aftershocks — and safety concerns for women and girls are a major concern.
Violence against women — particularly in camps for internally displaced people — has spiked in past humanitarian crises like the Indian Ocean typhoon, the 2010 Haitian earthquake, and recent conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic.
Reports of human traffickers targeting women and girls who survived the disaster in Nepal have already begun to surface. And relief agencies are publicly voicing concern for the safety of women and girls in Nepal's 140 displacement sites.
As the largest donor government to relief efforts, the US can make an important difference in these vital efforts — but US officials need to hear from caring people like us.
Help prevent violence and exploitation of Nepal's women and girls. Please urge USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah to commit more staff and resources to ensure that the country's women and girls are not doubly traumatized by exploitation and gender-based violence.
Dear Administrator Shah,
As someone concerned with the ongoing crisis in Nepal and the safety of the country's women and girls in the wake of the April 25th earthquake and its aftershocks, I strongly urge you to increase the staff and resources that your agency is directing to prevent female survivors from being doubly traumatized by post-quake gender-based violence and exploitation.
As you know, violence against women -- particularly in camps for internally displaced people -- has spiked in past humanitarian crises like the Indian Ocean typhoon, the 2010 Haitian earthquake, and recent conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. Reports of human traffickers targeting women and girls
who survived the disaster in Nepal have already begun to surface. And your own on-the-ground experts are publicly voicing concern for the safety of women and girls in Nepal's 140 displacement sites.
[Your comments here]
Stepped-up camp security, gender-separate, private, and well-lit sanitation areas, and rigorous monitoring to ensure that women and girls are not forced to perform sexual acts for relief supplies can all help ensure that the women survivors of Nepal are shielded from violence and exploitation.
USAID's “Smart from the Start" initiative to address gender concerns in disaster relief provides a starting point, but preventing violence and exploitation will require specific and increased commitments in staff and resources and a thoughtful integration of gender into every aspect of USAID's relief efforts.
Nepal is already a hotbed for human tracking. I hope USAID will do everything in the agency's power to prevent opportunistic predators from hurting the women and girls of Nepal who have already lost so much.