Girls displaced by Cyclone Idai face increased risk of gender-based abuse and discrimination: Plan International

Adolescent girls displaced by Tropical Cyclone Idai in Southern Africa face increased risk of gender-based abuse and discrimination, Plan International has today warned.

The death toll from cyclone Idai has reportedly risen over 300 and is expected to climb – at least 200 people have died in Mozambique, 100 in Zimbabwe and 56 in Malawi.

Plan International’s emergency response teams are on the ground in the three affected countries and distributing lifesaving essentials, such as shelter and clean water, with a particular focus on the needs of adolescent girls. 

Stuart Katwikirize, Plan International Regional Head of Disaster Risk Management, said it was critical to prioritise girls’ needs due to the increased risks they faced during crisis because of their age and gender.

“Girls who lost their homes and are living in shelters face many risks, including gender-based sexual abuse and violence. Many people are sheltering in schools, churches and public buildings, which are overcrowded, and don’t have separate bathrooms for girls and women, so girls may face the risk of attack if they get up in the night to go to the bathroom,” said Mr Katwikirize.

Mr Katwikirize also warned of the increased risk of child marriage.

“Many people lost their shelter, their food, everything. All they have is their life and their land, which is water logged. We know that when families are facing this kind of hardship and they have many mouths to feed, they may use child marriage as a method of protection, to reduce their burden,” said Mr Katwikirize.

Plan International’s teams on the ground are prioritising child protection and prevention of gender-based violence. 

Mr Katwikirize said: “We will raise awareness among the community of the risks and undertake training so that any incidents are quickly reported and addressed, and we can help to make sure that children and girls are safe.”

Cyclone Idai caused devastation after making landfall near Beira in Mozambique around midnight last Thursday and moving through neighbouring Zimbabwe and parts of Malawi.

Plan International Australia has launched an appeal to assist those impacted by the disaster. Those who wish to donate can do so by clicking here.

About Plan International 

Plan International is a leading girls’ rights agency. We work alongside children, young people, supporters and partners in more than 75 countries to tackle the root causes of injustices facing girls and the most marginalised children. We respond to emergencies to meet the needs of children and their families as quickly as possible, and we continue working with these communities afterwards to help them recover and rebuild their lives. We also work with children and their families to prepare for disasters, helping to reduce risks and save lives. 

Our local office, Plan International Australia funds programs supporting children in more than 25 countries, as well as sponsorship, emergency response and disaster risk reduction programs across the federation.