women and girls shouldn't be overlooked in Haiti

As the glare of the media spotlight fades from Haiti, the reconstruction and relief effort is only just beginning – and there’s where we need to ensure that women and girls’ rights is not forgotten.

In 2008 Amnesty produced a report highlighting that sexual violence against women and girls in Haiti is particularly rife and that the government should pay greater attention to stopping these abuses.  With the quake shattering Haiti’s already fragile infrastructure, the risk of sexual violence being carried out with impunity may well increase.

Sharon L Camp points out on the Huffington Post that displaced women and girls in Haiti are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation. Calling on the US Government’s response to the quake to include reproductive health services, Ms Camp argues that failing to address this issue heightens the risk of unwanted pregnancy and botched abortions, HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections.

Carolyn Makinson – also on Huffington – highlights that thousands of women and girls in Haiti at the moment are at risk; particularly those who are currently pregnant.

According to a NGO quoted in the Washington Post, about 37,000 women are currently pregnant in the country and as many as 10,000 could give birth in February.   

Various efforts are being made from civil society – for example Naomi Campbell has just announced that she’ll be hosting out a fashion show called Fashion for Relief  to raise money for the White Ribbon Alliance who will channel the funds to pregnant women and new mothers in Haiti. But government authorities and international reconstruction agencies must ensure that they are providing the right kind of resources to women and girls in Haiti.

The situation for women and girls is often forgotten about in times of disasters and crises and yet it's these people who are often the hardest hit.  The international community cannot simply keep tacitly accepting this. Let's hope that for this crisis, the rights of women and girls are central to Haiti’s reconstruction and development efforts.

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