Humanitarian Health Action

Proceedings from the WHO Conference on the Health Aspects of the Tsunami Disaster in Asia

Phuket, Thailand, 4-6 May 2005

Gender dimensions

26. Participants heard about the significant impact of gender on the survival and welfare of populations affected by the tsunami. In most locations, more women died than men: multiple biological, physical, social and cultural factors put them at a disadvantage. It was also reported that subsequent service delivery was insufficiently sensitive to the needs of women. Demographic imbalance will increase the pressure on young females to marry or to remarry (with risks to their reproductive and psychological health): this may have longer-term implications for the differential gender impact of the tsunami. Households headed by female survivors will face particular economic burdens and pressures. Women need to be in a position to realize their rights and contribute to processes of planning and decision-making for community recovery: they should be seen as valuable partners and not as "vulnerable victims".

27. Experience in Tsunami-affected communities, and in other disaster situations, suggests that the integration of gender concerns into disaster management may call for a shift in the attitudes and approaches of all involved in disaster response and recovery. Minimum requirements are the collection of gender (and age) disaggregated data, as well as gendered analysis of population needs. Health assistance strategies must explicitly address gender-based disadvantages. They should include, but not be limited to, minimum service packages for reproductive health, maternal and child health services, and actions to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.