Climate Change and it’s Disproportionate Impact on Women: A Call for Action

women holding hands
Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

The effects of climate change have been widespread and devastating, affecting countries across the globe, from Syria and Turkey to Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan. In Pakistan, recent floods have left a large part of the population struggling to cope with the aftermath, leading to economic losses and other problems, with women disproportionately affected. According to the UN Environment, around 80% of those displaced by climate change are women.

Climate change has also contributed to the spread of diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, and tuberculosis, which are transmitted by insects, humans, and exacerbated by poor access to clean food, water, and healthcare. Due to the pooling and stagnation of flood and rainwater, and lack of sanitation measures, women are at a higher risk of contracting these diseases.

The role of caregivers puts women at high risk of not only contracting but also spreading diseases. Women and children are 14 times more likely to die during a climate-induced disaster, as women are often responsible for caring for children and the elderly and may not be able to evacuate or seek shelter. Women who live in low-income countries and in rural areas are particularly vulnerable, lacking resources and infrastructure to cope with the impacts of extreme weather events.

Another significant effect of climate change is the decrease in the availability and quality of food and water, which can have a significant impact on women’s health. Women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die due to severe storms, tornados, and floods. Furthermore, women who collect water and prepare food are more exposed to the effects of droughts and floods, and crop failures can exacerbate food insecurity and malnutrition. Malnutrition is especially severe for women in rural settings with many children.

Mothers of young children are also at risk of food shortage and malnutrition, which can affect their children’s health. During the floods in Pakistan, nearly 700,000 pregnant women were deprived of maternal healthcare. Girls and women suffer from poor menstrual hygiene management, leading to urinary tract infections from lack of access to bathrooms and the use of unclean pads.

Women who have been displaced or resettled face a higher risk of violence, such as domestic servitude, forced prostitution, and organ trafficking. Women face numerous obstacles in seeking help, making it difficult for them to escape these situations.Climate change also affects mental health, with women particularly vulnerable to anxiety and depression in response to the trauma of extreme weather events or the loss of homes, livelihoods, and communities.

Women who live in areas affected by climate change also experience social isolation and high-risk jobs, which can lead to physical and mental stress. Once a person has experienced traumatic events, life cannot be the same, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder. People experiencing higher temperatures are more likely to have anxiety and depression. The fear and feelings that accompany climate change events stay with them even if they manage to rebuild homes.