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Home > News > Tsunami Strikes > PTI > Report

Tsunami survivors still vulnerable to abuse

December 21, 2005 09:27 IST

Despite all the high-profile aid, a large number of survivors of the Asian tsunami still live in sub-standard conditions a year after the tragedy, two United Nations experts have said.

They said women are increasingly vulnerable to physical and sexual violence.

In a statement on the occasion of the first anniversary of the tragedy, they called on the international community to intensify its efforts to assist the governments of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand and Somalia and fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian laws.

"We are concerned that a year later, reconstruction efforts are plagued by serious delays and have not been awarded the priority they so urgently warrant," Special Rapporteur on adequate housing of the UN Commission on Human Rights Miloon Kothari and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Walter Kdlin said.

Among their concerns, the experts cited poor living conditions that fail to meet international human rights standards, lack of attention to high numbers of IDPs, lack of access to basic services like water, sanitation and healthcare, inequities in aid distribution and failure to involve affected communities in aid distribution, and reconstruction.

"Although international attention seems to be waning rapidly, post-tsunami challenges continue to have an enormous impact on affected communities, family structures and social relations," the experts said, noting that this was particularly so in the case of women and vulnerable groups such as children.

The presence of military forces in some camps where tsunami survivors are living, as well as the lack of privacy in temporary shelters, has raised serious concerns regarding women's physical safety, and has increased their vulnerability to physical and sexual violence, they said.

This illustrates once again the close nexus between violence against women and the lack of adequate housing, they pointed out.

"Reports of domestic violence have been widespread, as the inadequate nature of housing design and settlement layouts have only served to exacerbate already tense relations in the home due to the stressful nature of life post-tsunami," they stressed.

Noting that the phenomenon of so-called 'tsunami marriages' among under-age girls was common in some areas, especially in southern India and Sri Lanka, they said it was essential that relief and rehabilitation efforts are carried out in a gender-sensitive manner and take into account the special needs and concerns of women.

Efforts must also be made to uphold the rights of children, they emphasised.

Special guarantees, they said, should be put in place for orphaned children to enable them to receive entitlements to land and compensation instead of merely absorbing them into existing family units exercising temporary guardianship.

Urgent steps they recommended include, increased accountability of public and private aid providers toward the people they are trying to assist; a more pro-active role in reconstruction efforts by governments; mechanisms ensuring transparency in the disbursal of funds; and concerted effort s to ensure that political interests do not threaten rehabilitation work, especially in conflict-ravaged areas.

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