Wednesday, March 4, 2015
MANILA-In observance of the International Women’s Day on March 8, Senator Loren Legarda today reiterated her call for increased protection of women, as well as children, the elderly and persons with disabilities, around the world in emergency situations such as disasters caused by natural hazards.
Legarda, United Nations Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, noted that disasters affect about 200 million people all over the world yearly, half of them women or girls whose special needs and concerns are not properly addressed, putting them at greater risk during disasters.
“We recognize that nations are gaining gradual progress in promoting gender equality and women’s rights, but challenges will never go away and in most communities, there are continuing barriers to women empowerment. The vulnerability of women to disasters is among the challenges that must be addressed with urgency,” she stressed.
The Senator underscored the need to ensure the security and well-being of women and girls through gender-sensitive and risk-sensitive development policies, plans and programs which involve women as equal partners in disaster risk reduction planning and humanitarian response.
Legarda also stressed that there are other sectors more vulnerable to disasters, such as children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and indigenous people, whose special concerns must be given proper attention so that they become part of the solution to reduce risks and build resilience.
“These sectors are disproportionately affected by disasters because they have distinct needs that are not sufficiently addressed. But we have to realize that they can also make positive contributions to disaster risk reduction and management if we only give them the necessary support,” she stressed.
Persons with disabilities can be engaged in assessing vulnerabilities, and in establishing effective early warning systems in the communities, together with civil society groups concerned. Meanwhile, the elderly can provide vital information on local risks to health since they are familiar with local history, geography and culture. They can also be sought for advice on response and recovery efforts, owing to their experience and wisdom.
“We should also recognize the role of children and young people in building disaster-resilient communities. When we create an enabling environment for children to witness and practice DRR early on in life, we inculcate in them a level of disaster preparedness that will be passed on to the succeeding generations when they become adults,” Legarda said.
The Senator has filed Senate Bill 2502, which mandates the Department of Social Welfare and Development to set up a Children’s Emergency Center in every city or municipality declared under the state of calamity which shall provide the necessary child care services and shall coordinate with the lead agencies to effectively respond to the needs of children in the area.
“When we empower both men women, and capacitate the young and old, persons living with disabilities and ethnic groups, we reduce their vulnerability to disasters. Building resilience should be everybody’s attitude. With this kind of mindset, we can promote the scaling up of existing government programs to rectify the social and economic structures that breed disaster risk and trap the poor and vulnerable citizens in the vicious cycle of risk and poverty,” Legarda concluded.