Exploring Health Challenges of South Asian Women at the Evacuation Centers after Disasters

Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 2019, 34, (s1), pp. s31-s31
Issue Date:
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Introduction:Globally, women are considered to be more vulnerable during disasters. South Asia including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Nepal experience many disasters, and are also ranked lowest on the gender equality index. Women of these countries tend to face many health challenges while staying at evacuation centers after disasters.Aim:This study highlights the health challenges South Asian women face while staying in evacuation centers after disasters.Methods:A narrative review was conducted using the keywords, “women after disaster,” “evacuation centers,” and “emergency health care.” Literature identified from the references were also added until reaching saturation. 47 articles were obtained through Elsevier, Google Scholar, Scopus, and ProQuest.Results:Women in shelters in South Asian countries experienced many health challenges including genito-urinary tract infections (studies from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), increased maternal mortality (Nepal and Pakistan), and sexual assault with resulting unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV (Nepal). Factors that contributed were the unavailability of separate toilets, inadequate sanitation, lack of sanitary supplies, and inadequate childbirth and maternity care resources. Rape victims at the shelters of Myanmar received delayed medical treatments, causing long-term health complications. Post-disaster stress and trauma were evident among women at the shelters initiated by insecurity, fear of abuse, and unfair relief distribution.Discussion:Women face certain challenges when staying in evacuation shelters in South Asian countries, which impacts their wellbeing after disasters. It is important to recognize women’s special requirements and to preserve women’s rights while developing disaster preparedness strategies. Socio-cultural perspectives of the disaster-prone areas should be considered at the policy planning level to ensure an effective and practical health-safety system. Additionally, further research focusing on women’s wellbeing at the evacuation centers is required to inform and overcome health challenges faced by women living in the shelters.
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