When it comes to climate change and women, the world’s poorest, living in low-lying areas, are at the greatest risk for the effects of climate change and natural disasters.

Those living in poverty are disproportionately affected by climate change due to low-quality housing, inadequate infrastructure and a lack of access to services. They are more greatly affected by declines in crop yields and increases in food prices.

Within this group, women and children living in rural areas are even further disadvantaged. A large majority of the 1 billion people living in poverty are women.

A report by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted, “Price rises, which may be induced by climate shocks as well as other factors, have a disproportionate impact on the welfare of the poor in rural areas, such as female-headed households and those with limited access to modern agricultural inputs, infrastructure and education.”

The relationship between climate change and women is bleak, as women already make up the vast majority of a group that is disadvantaged when it comes to climate change. This fact is compounded with the harsh reality that in many areas around the world, women do not share an equal position in regards to rights and socioeconomic status.

Women make up a large majority of those killed in natural disasters. In Myanmar’s Cyclone Nargis in 2008, women made up 61 percent of the fatalities. Likewise, women made up 70 percent of the fatalities caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami in Indonesia in 2004.

Not only is the disaster impact uneven, but the response and recovery following can also lack equality. After crises, women and children are at a higher risk for violence and sexual harassment due to the weak state of the nation following disasters.

The combination of these factors makes women extremely vulnerable and disproportionately affected by natural disasters and climate change.

— Kim Tierney

Sources: UN Women 1, UN Women 2, World Bank
Photo: RFA