This year, the heavy monsoon rains, flooded most parts of the country that killed over 1,000 people, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and displaced a large number of families. The floods played havoc with people’s lives and resources especially in the province of Balochistan and Sindh where the floods hit hardest and majority of the population suffered. Experts say that the heavy rainfall broke the records of the previous years due to the climate change that brings irregular weather patterns as one of its negative consequences on the overall atmospheric conditions.

The National Disaster Management Authority has claimed that the past month was the wettest in three decades, with 133% more rain than the average for the past 30 years. It also said that the province of Balochistan which got severely hit by the recent floods received 305% more rain than the annual average.

According to Environmental and Climate Change Ministry, Pakistan has received 87 percent more rain this monsoon season as compared with the monsoon rains of the past years.

Analysts have noticed that climate change related incidents including floods and disasters mostly affect women as compared to their male counterparts. It has been observed through a study that climate change produces negative effects on psychological and reproductive health of women who bear the major brunt of disasters.

“There is evidence that shows interlinkages between climate change, health and sexual and reproductive health and rights(SRHR),” says the study titled ‘Understanding climate change, impact on women’s reproductive health: Post-disaster interventions in Sindh.

The scarcity of water, and absence of other amenities on which women are highly dependent to run a household leaves them stranded miserably with no availability of resources to feed themselves. Most women in flood-stricken areas who depend on agriculture experience high yield loss which causes food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition in their bodies. The lack of access to resources generally builds up stress and causes psychological issues in women as they have to keep themselves confined in camps with no water and food nearby.

“Girls and pregnant women are vulnerable to psychological fears. Women and girls felt insecure and psychologically fearful while staying in camps,” says the study.

Experts have noticed that women suffer massively with respect to reproductive health issues during floods. Some women die or their infants pass away due to severe complications and lack of medical services to provide urgent aid. Most women feel hesitant to exercise self-aid due to strict gender barriers and male dominance. They remain constricted to their camps in times of urgent need and are not allowed to move freely if they require help. Many a time, women face financial problems due to death of their husbands in camps during flood or even after they leave as they find no means to gain economic security.

Sara Hayat, a climate change expert, expressed the greater vulnerability of women to climate change induced disasters. She said that women are less aware and educated than men which makes them more susceptible to die as compared to men.

“In natural disasters, 14 times more women than men die. The reason is: women are not taught life-saving skills,” she said.

Domestic violence also surges when families face disasters, leaving men with loss of livelihoods and increased frustration that it brings with itself. Men beat women at their camps when they could not find enough resources to eke out a sustainable living. They release their resentful emotions on their women as they believe they are inherently made tolerant to deal with it. The subsequent displacements have found to increase the cases of domestic/sexual violence that leaves women helpless at the mercy of their husbands.

Analysts have observed that the devastation caused by flash foods can be avoided if the government put focus on disaster risk reduction and meticulously invite investments in adaptation and planned rehabilitation of people beforehand in case of emergency crisis. Introducing gender-sensitive policies, teaching women life-saving skills and arranging means for better income generation can help women to be agents of change and reduce their vulnerability. Climate change induced disasters are going to get severe in future that can only be mitigated if sustainable policies and climate change adaption techniques are introduced on priority basis. Moreover, the risks involving women can also be removed if women are given positions in decision-making roles and encouraged to participate in devising rational solutions for climate change related problems. Women interventions in the matters dealing with women issues are essential in bringing positive results and quick solutions for problems that they face.

  • The writer is a polymer engineer with a profound interest in politics. She works on social issues and gender bias. She can be reached on Twitter @mehmilkhalid

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