Woman in South Sudan surrounded by children

Honour and protect women in the frontlines of disaster response 

Mesfin Loha praises and laments the responsibility women take on themselves during times of humanitarian crisis and suggests ways to protect and support them.

8 March, 2023 

In humanitarian emergencies, the instinct of many women in many countries where World Vision works is that of a caregiver: especially for the young, the sick and elderly. They become the first and perpetual responders, roles that are not adequately recognised and supported by many actors.  

Women play major roles as caregivers and are crucial to the success of any emergency assistance. Given today is International Women’s Day it seems fitting that this significant contribution to humanity be recognized and applauded. 

Yet, given the day, we should also acknowledge that their lives and service during emergencies are put at scandalous risk because women face levels of gender-based violence, with physical and mental abuse that spikes during humanitarian crises. 

The world is witnessing increasing levels of natural and man-made disasters, and with each crisis women and girls are put at risk as they step up to serve those around them.  

It is time that the humanitarian industry, governments and donors paid more and better attention to women and girls in emergency response operations. There must be more than just strategic intent in policy papers—commitment to protect and care for women and girls must become meaningful action.  

Three ways this can happen are:  

 1. Ensuring safe and dignified access to life-saving assistance. (Click below to read more on this) 

2. Mainstreaming and integration of protection across humanitarian response (Click below to read more on this)


3. Strengthening systems and processes for the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (Click below to read more on this)

Protracted displacements in particular continue to have a heavy toll on women and girls. Living conditions are often appalling, with poor or non-existent social services, and barely enough food. Combined with violence and abuse facing women, the challenges they have to overcome to simply care for the most vulnerable in their community are numerous.  

More must be done to protect and support them. Now. Women who step up, who respond when chaos descends are heroes and deserve better. 

To learn more about World Vision’s work in emergency responses click here 

To learn more about our work in South Sudan click here

Mesfin Loha, is Country Director at World Vision South Sudan.