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Women, young girls suffer most during disasters, Social Protection Ministry to seek additional funding

Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence addressing the UNFPA’s World Population Day Forum. Seated are far left UNFPA Assistant Representative Patrice La Fleur and First Lady Sandra Granger.

by Zena Henry

Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence is convinced that enough is not being done to safeguard women and young girls in Guyana during the time of disasters, and is committed to seeking additional funding from government to address this area.

She made this announcement Monday July 20 during the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) World Population Day observance forum held at the Cara Lodge. The event saw, specially invited guests- First Lady Sandra Granger, Minister Lawrence, who delivered the feature address, Assistant Representative for UNFPA Patrice La Fleur, and representatives from women and social groups.

The observance theme, “Vulnerable Population in Emergencies,” was relevant to address the plight of women, young girls and the elderly during this time. Lawrence said, “during human emergencies and natural disasters they face greater risk of violence and sexual exploitations and for the most part, in the aftermath too, they are the ones who have to struggle to cater for the needs of their children, their elderly parents and relatives and the injured; in short they are saddled with the burden of reconstructing their lives…”

The Minister drew the parallel given last week’s flood; “it was our women folk… who bore the brunt in the aftermath.” She said, “The bailing of water from their homes and subsequent sanitization, their trotting through the flood water to acquire food for their children and other relatives, their exposure to infection as some washed or moved around in sewage waters.”

“This underscores the need for a readiness package; such as water, food and medication and access to shelter. These are the special needs that cannot be overlooked,” if adequate disaster relief is to be given.”

The Minister noted that that matter has many implications for the amount of money earmarked for such a response. “It is obvious that budget allocations in this area, is inadequate. And if we wish to satisfy demands of those misplaced; then more funds have to be set aside while and more groups must intervene.”

The Minister said she would be staying close to Finance Minister Winston Jordan as she works for more money to be pumped into this area.

La Fleur told attendees that the observance day comes at a time when Guyana is experiencing a natural disaster. She said while this happens all over the world, “it is expected that nations be prepared to respond and take care of its people, especially the vulnerable.”

Giving UN stats, she said the number of those forcibly displaced globally has risen to almost 60 million and among them, “women and adolescent girls face specific threats at the absence of health and other essential services.”

La Fleur explained that the UNFPA is responsible for people’s reproductive health and it is noted that the vulnerability of women and girls are often exacerbated, during disasters. “They face a much greater risk of abuse, sexual exploitation and violence and health related illnesses which could lead to death if social protection systems and basic services are not provided to address their needs.”

She said pregnant women, nursing mothers and menstruating women and girls require nourishing food and health supplies, but these matters are often over looked, “but for UNFP these are essential and must be taken into consideration.”

The First Lady in brief remarks stressed the need for emphasis on the elderly during disasters and noted the need for them to be included in any plan to address the most vulnerable.