Post-earthquake recovery efforts are failing Haitian women

Haitian displacement campAccording to a new report from Human Rights Watch, more than a year and half after the earthquake in Haiti, the recovery efforts have failed to protect the health and rights of women.

The LA Times reports:

Despite a mammoth humanitarian-care push in the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010, quake that killed as many as 300,000 people, serious gaps exist in the healthcare that women and girls are receiving, according to a report released Tuesday by the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Pregnant women reported having to give birth in alleyways or on floors; being unable to afford transportation to hospitals, and not having access to prenatal care.

Human Rights Watch also documented widespread sexual violence and “transactional sex,” where women trade sex for food or other basic survival needs.

As such disasters so often do, the earthquake has “exacerbated the vulnerabilities of this already vulnerable group,” the report says. Before the earthquake, Haiti had the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere. Sexual violence was a wide-spread problem. But the conditions in the displacement camps–where 300,000 women and girls still live–have made things even worse.

And although almost $260 million has been committed to health care aid, the government and donors have failed to ensure access to services. As the report’s main author Amanda Klasing said, “It is inconceivable that, 18 months after the quake, with so much money pledged … that women and girls are giving birth in muddy tents.”

While HRW calls on the “the government, donors, and nongovernmental groups” to basically do a better job, Haitian women are also organizing to fight back themselves. The Christian Science Monitor reports that they’re creating neighborhood watch groups to protect themselves from sexual violence in the camps and building nation-wide coalitions to lobby for the passage of an anti-violence bill.

Image credit: Eduardo Verdugo/AP

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    As I have come to understand it, sustained poverty has created a situation where no chain of command has ever really feasibly existed. It’s tough to make things work well when no one has a basic understanding of shared responsibilities and specialized tasks. Building this infrastructure is going to take a long time, and no one yet has taken the time, money, or energy to do it.

  • http://feministing.com/members/anastasia/ Anastasia

    Thanks for linking this. It’s important to remember that even though it sometimes seems like the earthquake happened in the past, people are still suffering its devastating after-effects.

    I noticed in your post you didn’t mention ways to help. Do you know of any other international relief groups in Haiti specifically dedicated to helping women and young girls? Or is there a way I can find such organizations myself? I would really like to post a link to the HRW report on my Facebook, but if possible I’d like to include some links to organizations so that people who see the link can feel like there is something they can do to help.

    • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ toongrrl

      The listing of Relief groups would really help