Local women’s organizations in tsunami-affected areas are reporting violence, including rape, against women and girls. A local Sri Lankan organization issued a public statement urging attention to “serious issues concerning the safety and well-being of women which have not been addressed so far in relief efforts,” reports Women’s Enews. Another women’s organization in Sri Lanka stated that they “have received reports of incidents of rape, gang rape, molestation and physical abuse of women and girls in the course of unsupervised rescue operations and while resident in temporary shelters.”
In addition, the United States Department of State issued a warning to embassies and aid organizations in South Asia about the potential of a sex-trafficking crisis in tsunami-hit areas. The cable that was sent to the embassies urges ambassadors to educate refugees about sex-trafficking schemes, not to isolate women and children in the refugee camps, and to urge non-governmental organizations to practice a “zero-tolerance policy” for employees involved in human trafficking, reports the New York Sun.
According to Women’s Enews, women and girls are also facing basic health problems that are not being addressed adequately. For example, women and girls are facing gynecological and reproductive health problems such as the shortage of tampons and sanitary napkins, reports Women’s Enews.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is currently allocating $3 million for emergency aid and obstetrical supplies, including a “safe-birth kit” to save women in the Tsunami-hit areas from dying or suffering from childbirth complications. Since July 2002, the Bush Administration has stopped annually $34 million of congressionally approved money annually for the UNFPA.