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African Teenage Girls Bear Burden Of Disasters: Report

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Young women across Africa have borne the brunt of human induced and natural disasters including wars, droughts, floods and epidemics, said Plan International report launched in Nairobi on Friday.

The 2013 African Report on Adolescent girls and disasters was launched during the International Day of the Girl Child Cerebration.

Across the world, men, women, boys and girls experience disasters in different ways but pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities will be exacerbated in disasters and will affect girls and women more,” remarked the Plan International Regional Director for east and central African region, Gezahegn Kebede

Africa has experienced a dramatic rise in environmental and health shocks that have affected adolescent girls disproportionately.

Kebede regretted that cultural beliefs, poverty and marginalization have worsened the plight of African teenage girls whenever disasters strike.

Given the power hierarchies and social structures based on gender and age that exist in many parts of Africa, we recognize that adolescent girls have a double disadvantage,” Kebede said during the launch of report on girls and disasters

There has been scant policy attention on the plight of African young women during emergency situation even as the continent experience severe droughts, epidemics and sporadic strife.

The Plan International report observed that adolescent girls bear the brunt of deprivation and disruption as a result of man- made and natural disasters.

The report stressed that when food crises, civil strife, water scarcity and infectious diseases strike any society in Africa, young women shoulder the burden.

A comprehensive research by plan international in six disaster prone African countries revealed that young girls are not only vulnerable to humanitarian crises but have limited resilience.

The study noted that girls are routinely disadvantaged when it comes to nutrition, domestic workloads and education.

Likewise, the Plan International study revealed that girls‘ labor and sexuality are exploited during emergency situations.

Adolescent girls lack access to life saving devices during emergency situations hence their vulnerability to violence and intimidation that trigger deep emotional scars.

The Plan International regional director regretted that gender based violence is to blame for deformities, psychological trauma and low self esteem among teenage girls in Africa.

African countries should prioritize interventions that empower young women to boost their resilience in the face of disasters.

The Plan International Country Director for Kenya, Carol Sherman urged governments to invest in education for the girl child and combat retrogressive practices like early marriages and female genital mutilation.

Empowering teenage girls should not take a back seat, it should be a policy imperative if countries are to realize sustainable development,” Sherman said.

Violence, forced marriages and economic deprivation are major bottlenecks that have denied African teenage girls a chance to realize their potential.

The CEO, Kenya Gender and Equality Commission, Rose Odhiambo emphasized that education and better health care for the girl child accelerates socio-economic progress in any society.

It has been estimated that universal secondary education for girls in Sub-Saharan Africa could save as many as 1.8 million lives annually. When girls reach their full potential through improved healthcare and education, this is the most effective development tool for society as a whole,” Odhiambo said.

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