[Press Release] Health advocates push for the allocation of funds for women andchildren-friendly safety spaces in disaster and conflict areas – ABI HEALTH

On the week of the 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women (VAW)
Health advocates push for the allocation of funds for women andchildren-friendly safety spaces in disaster and conflict areas
December 13, 2013

Press Release
10 December 2013

On the day of the open Bicameral Conference (BICAM) and on the week of the18-Day Campaign to End VAW, health and women rights advocates pushedlegislators to allocate funds, sourced from the approved PhP100-billionCalamity and Rehabilitation Fund and PhP14.6-billion Supplemental budget, forthe establishment of women and children-friendly safety spaces in disasterand conflict-affected areas.

ABI Health Cluster copy

According to Mercy Fabros of the Alternative Budget Initiative HealthCluster (ABI-Health), “our call today is very timely. As we commemorate the18-Day Campaign to End VAW, our society especially our government shouldvow to protect its women and children against violence and abuse. Sincefunds are available for calamity and rehabilitation, let us allocate a goodportion to build safety spaces for women, children and other vulnerablesectors in disaster-ravaged communities.”

Women and children-friendly spaces are places where these sectors cansafely do their everyday routine, move around, sleep, breastfeed, play andwatch over their children anytime of the day especially at night. It is anaccessible space for the internally-displaced women and girls where theirwelfare is promoted and organized, gender-responsive services are provided.

“This early, we have been hearing stories of sexual abuse and exploitationfrom the ground being experienced by both survivors and caregivers. This isunacceptable! For us, even in emergency situations like this, order,security and protection should never be compromised. In fact, it should bea standard operating procedure integrated in the government’s immediateresponse to disasters and conflicts,” Fabros stressed.

In the lined-up amendments of the Senate for the 2014 National GovernmentBudget, almost a total of PhP144-billion has been identified to be spentfor disaster-related expenses such quick response, disaster risk reductionmanagement (DRRM), relief and reconstruction. “We just hope that there is aplace for women and children in the allocation of these identified funds,not only for infrastructure but also for the protective mechanisms thatcome along with it,” Fabros added.

Lessons and reports from international disasters such as Hurricane Katrina,Haiti earthquake and the Indian Ocean tsunami have shown that rape andsexual violence are not isolated incidents, but are part of a pattern ofbehaviour in disaster situations. While major relief agencies nowacknowledge this, gender-based violence is still generally a marginal issueand remains invisible in the public mind and under-reported by media.

Reports from the ground show that the same trend is happening now inYolanda-stricken areas where almost 75-80% of women and children survivorshave increased vulnerability to sexual exploitation and abuse. If this isnot prevented, about two percent or 61,000 women and girls (15-49 yearsold) will most likely experience such in humanitarian setting.

“At this time when there is a seeming quieting after the chaos, thegovernment might be able to listen well enough to the voices from theground especially that of the vulnerable women and children about theirneeds and plans for the future. To end VAW is everybody’s duty as what thisyear’s theme of the 18-day campaign says. However, the government shouldspearhead this. The allocation of funds for the protection of women andchildren including their long-term preparedness is one big step in theright direction,” Fabros said.

The ABI-Health Cluster is composed of 62 member organizations advocatingfor Universal Health Care. It is one of the clusters of ABI along withEducation, Agriculture, Social Protection, Environment and Persons withDisabilities Clusters. It is attached to Social Watch Philippines (SWP), anetwork of a hundred nongovernment organizations that, for eight years, hasbeen successfully pushing for increases in the national budgets for socialdevelopment, called for the realignment of P25 Billion allotted to theunconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to nationalgovernment agencies’ programs to help victims of disasters and prevent moretragedies caused by super typhoons and other calamities. #30#

Quotes from this PR were used for the Dec 12 Editorial of the Manila Standard Today

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