Women worried about food security & mental health during crises

ByCARE Australia March 8, 2023 0 comments

A new report from the international aid agency CARE is highlighting the way women and girls experience humanitarian crises differently from men and boys.

The report, which is being launched on International Women’s Day, comes at a time when more than 13 million people have fled their homes due to the war in Ukraine, hunger is nearing famine levels in the Horn of Africa, and humanitarian crises are ongoing in Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar. 

The findings show food security and mental health are bigger worries for women than men. 

Looking at survey responses across nine sample countries, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Iraq, women were three times as likely to report stress and mental health issues. 

Previous analysis by CARE has found 150 million more women around the world are going hungry than men.

CARE Australia’s Athena Nguyen said the findings showed an often overlooked dimension of humanitarian crises.

“There’s sometimes an assumption that conflict, food insecurity, natural disasters and climate shocks affect all people equally, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” Dr Nguyen said.

“Humanitarian crises have a way of laying bare inequalities and existing vulnerabilities amongst certain groups, and in many cases making them worse. This is often the case for people with disabilities, minority ethnic or religious groups, and — as this report shows — women and girls.”

The report analyses survey responses from more than 6000 women across nine countries, as well as quantitative analysis from a further 17 countries. 

In the nine sample countries, the most common concern of communities in crisis was livelihoods  — making an income and making ends meet. 53% of women and 50% of men cited this as their biggest concern. 

Mental health was the third biggest area of concern, with 17% of women and 6% of men saying they had recently experienced higher stress and mental health issues. 

Women’s Agenda has also launched a new report today in partnership with CARE Australia titled The Climate Load, which explores how disasters and other impacts of climate change are felt by women in Australia and the Pacific Islands, and the roles they are playing in finding solutions. 

Dr Nguyen said the two reports highlight the gendered dimensions of conflict and climate change.

“Across the world, it is women who are more often expected to take responsibility for feeding their families. In communities where people rely on their own crops for this food, women also do a large share of agricultural work and are generally responsible for collecting water and firewood,” Dr Nguyen said.

“When conflict displaces people and disrupts food supply chains, and when climate change affects weather patterns and the availability of natural resources, women have to work harder and longer to feed and care for their families.

“And when food is scarce, we often see that women eat last and eat less to ensure other members of the family have enough. All of this is also taking a significant mental toll.” 

Dr Nguyen said women needed more opportunities to participate in responding to these challenges. 

“We don’t have gender equality in humanitarian decision making, and women are often excluded from decision-making at a local level too. 

“This is what our community surveys are about — amplifying women’s voices and experiences during humanitarian crises and calling for more opportunities for them to lead and participate in solutions.”

Read the report — Her Voice: Listening To Women In Action.

For media enquiries contact Iona Salter in 0413 185 634

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