In August 2017, Nepal experienced its heaviest rainfall in 60 years, resulting in widespread floods across 35 of the country’s 77 districts. The floods had devastating impacts, with more than 190,000 homes destroyed or damaged and an estimated 450,000 people displaced. Communities faced food and water shortages and many suffered infections from drinking contaminated water. The floods also had a significant impact on critical infrastructure, with 80 schools across 28 districts destroyed and a further 710 damaged. In the worst affected districts, 64,000 hectares of standing crops were destroyed, severely threatening the communities’ long-term food security.
As in all emergencies, reports from the flood-affected districts found that women and marginalised groups were disproportionately impacted. In particular, single women, adolescent girls, women-headed households, people with a disability, pregnant and lactating women, sexual and gender minorities, older people, unaccompanied and separated children, caste and ethnicity-based minorities – all required significant support in the aftermath of the flooding. The floods impeded the ability of these groups to access essential services, including an estimated 32,884 pregnant women,476 of whom were likely to experience complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
ActionAid supported a women-led humanitarian response to the floods, recognising women’s huge potential and leadership in response and recovery efforts, as well as women’s specific needs that arise in an emergency. ActionAid worked to promote women’s leadership and agency in the humanitarian response to the flood and to ensure women could access their basic needs and a range of support services.
Through this project, hundreds of pregnant and lactating women accessed nutritional food support, dignity kits, and sanitary items. Four ‘Women Friendly Spaces’ were established, which provided hundreds of women with a range of support services, including information on gender-based violence. 200 local women leaders have been ensuring women’s needs are heard in local Disaster Relief Committee ever since.