Prioritize vulnerable sectors during disasters

News Release
11 July 2015

On World Population Day:
Sen.Pia: ‘Prioritize most vulnerable sectors during disasters’

As nations mark ‘World Population Day’ on July 11, Senator Pia S. Cayetano stressed the importance of recognizing that certain sectors of our population are particularly vulnerable in times of emergencies.

“The Filipino is no stranger to disasters. And as we brace ourselves for the typhoon season, it bears stressing that disaster response programs should give special importance to those who are most vulnerable – children, women, especially pregnant women, the sick, the elderly and differently abled,” said Cayetano, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Family Relations and Gender Equality.

The theme adopted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for World Population Day this year is ‘Vulnerable Populations in Emergencies.’

The senator said that mother- and child-friendly spaces that were set up at evacuation centers in the aftermath of Yolanda two years ago proved crucial in ensuring the health and safety of women and children as their communities recovered from the effects of the super typhoon.

“By including particular needs such as basic hygiene kits, breastfeeding tents, toilets for the exclusive use of women, and making reproductive health services available in post-disaster efforts, we can greatly reduce the various risks that women face, especially pregnant and nursing mothers,” she noted.

“On the other hand, the establishment of child-friendly zones where young children could play and study, join group activities and undergo counselling would help hasten their recovery,” she added.

The senator said incidents of maternal and infant sickness, deaths, as well as cases of rape, trafficking and prostitution would be mitigated if the welfare of women and children are integrated in disaster risk reduction programs from the local up to the national level.

She then highlighted the need for emergency response workers and local governments to improve data collection on our demographics. “The more accurate and detailed our data is, the better we can plan and respond. We should also make use of available technology for data gathering and quick response.”

Cayetano is working on the proposed ‘Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act,’ which seeks to institutionalize a comprehensive emergency program for children in times of disasters. Under the bill, the government will be mandated to formulate and implement the program immediately whenever a national or local state of calamity is declared.

The senator plans to sponsor the measure – which reconciles several versions filed by different senators – in plenary when regular session resumes this month.

It was also Cayetano who pushed for the inclusion of gender-responsive provisions in Republic Act 10121, the ‘Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.’

These provisions include the training of humanitarian aid workers to enable them to support breastfeeding among nursing mothers who are staying in evacuation shelters, and even after they return to their homes when the risks in their community have subsided. #

Sen. Pia S. Cayetano with children evacuees at a relief center in Taguig City, 2013 (file photo)

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