Magazine article UN Chronicle

Time for Solidarity with Women of Haiti

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Time for Solidarity with Women of Haiti

Article excerpt

I will never forget the time an earthquake shook Dodoma in 2002 when I was a parliamentarian in my home country of Tanzania. I had no idea how to react to the tremors and instinctively ran outside. Though I was fortunate that the tremors caused minimal damage, they brought home to me in a deeply personal way just how fragile we are. The earthquake that devastated Haiti brought these memories back vividly and my heart went out to my many colleagues and the people of Haiti who have been deeply affected.

For many more millions across the world, the tragedy provoked a profound sense of empathy and a generous outpouring of aid. This time of solidarity is also a moment to reflect on the impact of disasters all across the world, the role of the United Nations and our collective responsibility to respond--not only to immediate needs, but for a sustainable future for the survivors.

Too often, those hardest hit are women and children. In search of shelter, mothers walk long distances with their children in their arms and their possessions on their heads, their necks swollen from the pressure. Families are torn apart. Children who are too young to understand what is happening are often separated from their parents in the mayhem.

When beleaguered women arrive at camps set up by aid agencies, they often face the same adverse division of labour that they have long suffered. They are still responsible for the health and well-being of their families, but now under drastically worsened circumstances.

Challenged by the most difficult of conditions, women struggle to find shelter, clothing and food for their vulnerable circle of loved ones. This often means they must venture into unknown territory where they are open to new risks, from robbery to sexual abuse.

Perhaps no survivors are more heart-wrenching to see than the mothers who are debilitated by childbirth-related injuries. Try imagining for a second that you are expecting, while fearing not only for your own life but also for the delicate life growing inside you.

The heart-wrenching stories of pregnant women in disaster situations--giving birth in cars and tents, on park benches and bare ground, with no water, much less medical care--are a gripping reminder that the cycle of life does not slow or stop just because a disaster hits. It is unacceptable that the life-giving role of women is suddenly a life-threatening one. …

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