By Emma Husband, Staff Writer
The number of people killed in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal on April 25 rises each day. It’s now standing at over 6000 with 13000 injured and many more still unaccounted for.
Stories of pain, suffering, and loss continue to reach us, alongside scatters of hope from those still being rescued.
The ruins that remain leave women in a precarious position. Pregnant women are left with no healthcare or sanitation. Many women have no access to toilets, and lots of aid packages do not contain sanitary products. Dealing with basic hygiene becomes extremely difficult and means that many women are vulnerable and humiliated, in addition to dealing with potential grief, home-loss, and injury. Violence, rape and sexual abuse are also prevalent in the aftermath of natural disasters, and resources to respond to these situations are depleted, if there at all.
Clearly, inequalities in society are exacerbated when disasters occur. In the 2004 tsunami, for every man that was killed, 4 women were. This discussion of how to respond to these large-scale catastrophes is becoming increasing urgent due to climate change, where women in poorer countries will bear the brunt of the effects of the west’s consumption. Under capitalism these women are treated as ‘externalities’ and the name says it all; whether it’s damaging waste, the pains of underpaid labour, or the effects of burning fossil fuel, the idea from those at the top is that these unsightly happenings go ‘over there’ where everyone else can disassociate from them but still reap the rewards.
The sheer amount of people affected by the Nepal quake means that we need to act quickly and on a large scale:
- A quarter of the population of Nepal are estimated to have been affected
- Nearly 3 million people are displaced, with 70,000 houses destroyed and over half a million damaged
- 3.5 million people require food relief
[Source Nepalese Government/UN ]
Just 1.4% of the UN’s appeal for £270m to fund 3 months of relief so far has been met. In the short term, then, concentration must be on raising more funds and making sure that aid is distributed to all of those that need it.
The urgent necessity of aid will most likely override lengthy discussions of inclusivity. Equality in times of relative stability becomes an ever-more pressing issue, as this will enable just provisions and protection in times of need. In the long term, women need to be part of the discussion and the solution so that when the worst strikes, whether human-made disaster or natural, they are not left vulnerable to further indignities and atrocities.