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

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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