Humanitarian Health Action

Purpose statements for panels and sessions

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

Panel 2.3: Gender dimensions and human rights aspects to response and recovery


In addition to the people killed, injured or still missing as a result of the tsunamis, approximately one million others were internally displaced. Some countries are experiencing and responding to the problem of internal displacement for the first time. In other countries, the tsunamis hit areas of ongoing armed conflict and internal displacement, worsening pre-existing humanitarian crises and forcing many persons previously displaced by violence to flee once again, further compounding their difficulty.

Displaced women and children face a range of particular risks, and call for special attention. They experience heightened vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence, especially in camps, where the risks also include increased levels of domestic violence, child abuse and alcohol-related violence. When food and other aid are not delivered directly to women and when they are excluded from camp management and the design of relief and reintegration plans, women’s vulnerability increases dramatically.

Towards a better understanding of how the international disaster response system can use gender equality and human rights principles to strengthen the health response to disasters, the panel will examine the following issues for discussion:

  • Human rights protection concerns including access to assistance, discrimination in aid provision, enforced relocation, recruitment of children into fighting forces, loss of documentation, safe and voluntary return or resettlement, and issues of property restitution.
    Special attention will be given to human rights protection issues for women, including sexual harassment and rape, abuse by intimate partners, exploitation by traffickers, erosion or loss of existing land rights, early/forced marriage, forced migration, reduced or lost access to reproductive health services, and inequitable control over economic recovery resources.
  • The extent to which women as well as men’s concerns and experiences were documented, anlaysed and responded to before, during, and after the disaster;
  • In all stakeholder groups (e.g., survivors, agency officials, front-line responders, relief workers, community activists, technical specialists, academics, government spokespersons, and all the other actors), women’s participation and leadership before, during and after the disaster, including in decision-making about how resources are mobilized and utilized.