On May 20, Super Cyclone Amphan made landfall in Bangladesh impacting 2.6 million people in 19 districts.
A Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) on the impacts of Cyclone Amphan has been conducted through contributions from the following Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group (GiHA) member agencies: UN Women, CARE, Oxfam and Christian Aid. In the hardest hit districts, it is estimated that nearly 820,000 women – including over 49,316 pregnant women and 29,133 female-headed households – were affected by Cyclone Amphan. The Rapid Gender Analysis confirmed that certain groups were hit particularly hard, including female-headed households, pregnant and lactating women, people with disabilities, sex workers, transgender persons, adolescent boys and girls. In the aftermath, women and girls are at greater risk of gender-based violence such as domestic violence and early marriage in a context of existing gender inequality and discrimination. The report outlines key findings and concludes with immediate and medium to longer term recommendations for humanitarian response.
Cyclone Amphan has left behind a trail of destruction in the Bangladesh’s Southwest region – a region already ravaged by salinity, natural disasters, poverty and an inability to cope with recurrent shocks. The coastal and char (island) households have the lowest per-capita income in the country. Millions living in poverty in these areas have been devastated by the effects of Cyclone Amphan. Majority of the hard-hit areas are remote char and riverbank erosion prone areas that constantly experience deterioration of resilience due to frequent natural disasters. For example, many of these affected areas were also affected by super cyclone Sidr in 2007 and Cyclone Aila in 2009, taking several years to restore livelihood. And in these current situations, particularly women and girls are disproportionately impacted, and their sufferings prolonged by long period of inundation, displacement, ongoing extreme weather, loss of livelihood, and the added fear of coronavirus pandemic.
In Bangladesh, the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men perpetuate discrimination against women and girls and are reflected in their disadvantageous and unequal status in many areas, including in employment, decision making, marriage and family relations, and the persistence of violence against women. These inequalities contribute to women, girls and excluded groups appearing to be the worst-affected by Cyclone Amphan, subject to greater food insecurity and increased risk of gender-based violence. This is in line with global and national evidence on the disproportionate, gendered impact of natural disasters. At the same time, COVID-19 has a significant implication on livelihoods of women in Bangladesh as 91.8% of the total employment of women is in the informal sector: domestic workers, daily labourers, street vendors, cleaners, sex workers including transgender persons, and other informal workers who have rapidly lost their means to earn an income. In this backdrop, Humanitarian respond agencies must account for the different experience of crisis felt by women, men, boys and girls, and ensure action tailored accordingly.
Moreover, those responsible for recovery programming should use the opportunity to address inequalities and transform harmful gender norms where possible.
The gendered impact of Amphan is evident in following areas:
• Food was identified as most prioritized immediate need, due to the food insecurity induced by COVID-19 lockdown that has obstructed the livelihoods of millions and pushed many poor households below the poverty line;
• The negative coping mechanisms adopted in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan such as reduced meals, selling productive assets, taking loans has taken a more drastic impact on women and girls;
• Safety measures for women and girls in the shelters and for the displaced community remains a concern and existing shelters are not gender, age and diversity friendly;
• Protection and safety issues such as domestic and intimate partner violence and child exploitation will likely increase and become compounded by factors such as loss of habitat, loss of income, school closures ,etc.;