Gender at the forefront of CERF response


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Humanitarian emergencies have a differentiated impact on men and women; they face different risks and are thus affected in different ways. The vast majority of internally displaced persons and refugees globally are women and children. With the onset of emergency situations, advances in gender rights and norms gained in peaceful settings can be quickly eroded. In many cases, women become the sole providers of their household livelihood during emergencies. Women’s access to quality maternal care may be compromised, and they may have to give birth without essential medicines and quality health care to ensure safe delivery, thus risking their lives and those of their newborn children. Lack of access to reproductive health services in emergencies may expose women and girls to unintended pregnancies and to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. The risk of exposure to violence, including sexual violence, increases in emergencies and prevention activities in humanitarian settings may be weakened, with access to services disrupted.

Gender-sensitive humanitarian aid can help decrease the negative effects of complex emergencies and natural disasters on men, women and children. In this vein, CERF works to help UN agencies - in support of government efforts - ensure that the rights of all people are respected, protected and fulfilled by funding life-saving emergency interventions. CERF supports humanitarian projects that seek to mainstream gender concerns, as well as through targeted action. Considering how the planning and implementation of CERF-funded projects will affect women, boys and girls is a key concern. Of the countries that received CERF funding in 2011, 93 per cent reported incorporating the needs of women, girls, men and boys during project design, implementation and monitoring. Below are three country examples of how the particular needs of these groups are factored into CERF-supported programmes.

Zimbabwe was affected by low and erratic rainfall and a prolonged dry spell that occurred between February and March 2011. The drought destroyed agro-ecological livelihoods and resulted in humanitarian needs for populations unable to recover from the negative effects of continuing socio-economic challenges. Households were severely impacted by the drought and time-critical interventions were required for the largely pastoralist communities, where livestock and drought-resistant small-grain crops are the primary source of livelihood.

Some CERF grants from the second round of the underfunded window targeted southern Zimbabwe, where agro-pastoralist households were severely affected. The Livelihood and Institutional Capacity Building and Infrastructure (LICI) cluster prioritised needs based on country assessments, and projects underscoring gender equality were developed and implemented. Stakeholders in drought-affected areas prioritised interventions that would consider the needs of women, men, boys and girls. This enabled the community to recognize the different needs of women - especially women heads of households, children and others - in restoring livelihoods and food security. During the selection of beneficiary households, priority was given to those headed by women or unemployed youth (girls and boys), families with orphans, and households with chronically ill and elderly members. A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) funded project designed to improve food and nutrition security and promote the diversification of food sources reached 3,214 individuals, of whom more than two-thirds were women. Another livelihood project, implemented by IOM to ensure food security in Chipinge and Muzarabani Districts, reached 3,000 beneficiaries and helped women reduce travel distances to fetch water, helped them water community gardens, and improve household food sources.

The arrival of Tropical Depression 12-E in El Salvador on 10 October 2011 brought unprecedented rainfall, exceeding levels recorded during the last 50 years. Government reports indicated that more than 500,000 people were directly affected, including 35 fatalities and 56,000 evacuees. An estimated 20,000 homes were flooded and more than 10,000 household wells were destroyed or damaged.

As part of its multisectoral support to the most vulnerable flood-affected communities, CERF funded the World Health Organization (WHO) project interventions to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to 33,000 people through partner agencies. More than 60 per cent of people who benefited from water and sanitation interventions managed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) were women. In addition, UNICEF-funded WASH interventions ensured that 80 per cent of the people who coordinated the delivery of aid were women. Women also participated actively in identifying the families most in need, and in training sessions on hygiene practices. CERF also supported UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF protection activities to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and provide psycho-social care to 7,226 people living in shelters, of which more than 70 per cent were women.

After the heaviest rains recorded in 10 years in Lesotho, approximately 514,000 people were food insecure and required humanitarian assistance. The Humanitarian Country Team prioritised the need to reduce the impact of the food crisis on households and create enabling conditions to allow the most vulnerable farmers to start planting during the main crop season. A community-based approach was used to target beneficiary households, with households headed by women given priority.

CERF funds were allocated to FAO and WFP in Lesotho to provide humanitarian assistance for 90,000 beneficiaries. WFP ensured that ration cards were issued in women’s names to give them direct access to food (except in the case of families with a single male parent) and that the majority of food recipients (at least 60 percent) were women. To ensure that women play a leading role in WFP food distribution decision-making, at least 50 percent of the relief committee members are women. FAO-funded projects benefited 22,500 people, 60 per cent of whom were women.