• Rebecca Bassey
  • Sitara Nath

In August 2022, Pakistan witnessed an unusually intense monsoon season, resulting in widespread flooding that ravaged homes and agricultural lands. This catastrophic event submerged a third of Pakistan in water with significant loss of livelihoods as an aftermath. The flood left over 20.6 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid and displaced 8.2 million people from their homes. Various necessities to sustain livelihoods, including shelter and sanitation, continue to be inaccessible to many until today. The floods were unequivocally linked to the escalating impact of environmental change given the monsoon's intensity and premature rainfall. What can be learned from the case of Pakistan?

Climate, Gender, and Youth 

It has been well-documented that disasters such as the one in Pakistan have gendered impacts, especially when considered through an intersectional lens of gender and youth. For instance, heightened risks of gender-based violence (GBV), are correlated with disasters triggered by extreme weather events. Disruptions of this magnitude can subject women and girls to GBV and sexual exploitation in order to access basic necessities including food and housing.

Disasters also diminish access to natural resources and income, a factor which levies a heavier impact on women who are responsible for such tasks; for example, women may have to travel farther away from home in order to earn money, collect water, or engage in agricultural work. Girls are also impacted because they often have to leave school in order to help with these increased household responsibilities.

Similarly, increased cases of child marriage have been observed in such regions as a means to securing finances in the face of disasters. Given that factors like disasters triggered by droughts increase income insecurity, families resort to child marriage to compensate and to achieve what they perceive as increased security for their daughters.

These gendered implications of climate change affect mobility patterns in important ways, thus making disasters a gendered issue as well. The case of the 2022 floods in Pakistan is demonstrative of this.

Climate Migration, Gender, and Youth

In Pakistan, flood-related destruction has impacted the availability of community resources and programs that are designed to support women and girls who are survivors or at risk of GBV. For instance, programs that provide support to survivors of domestic violence, including medical, legal, and psychological aid, have been disrupted. Additionally, shelters and camps for internally displaced people in Pakistan present a higher risk of GBV for women and girls. In this way, provisional spaces become overly-crowded and factors such as poor lighting and the lack of gender-specific physical spaces remain neglected with risks of GBV increasing correspondingly. GBV risks are also heightened due to transportation damages induced by the floods; commuting to and from camps for school and healthcare services all form “risk routes” given the damaged roads and bridges in Pakistan.

The floods also destroyed numerous healthcare facilities, thus hindering women and girls from accessing reproductive health services, such as contraception and maternity health resources. In this context, it is important to note that internal displacement camps often remain unsafe for displaced - and primarily younger - women to give birth as they routinely lack necessary equipment and personnel to provide proper maternal care.

Mental health also remains a concern for women and girls who are displaced due to the floods. Trauma from losing homes and livelihoods exacerbated by the conditions of IDP camps, results in profoundly adverse impacts on women’s mental health. Some camps do not have gender-segregated bathrooms, sanitary conditions, or menstrual hygiene products, leaving women and girls highly vulnerable. Girls who start their periods in these camps also face trauma and anxiety as they lack the knowledge and facilities to accommodate their needs.

Education has also been compromised as a direct result of the Pakistan flood crisis. An estimated 26,222 schools were damaged, destroyed, or repurposed as shelters, thereby interrupting the schooling of around 3.5 million children around the country. Displaced girls in particular are impacted by these educational interruptions, given pre-existing inequalities surrounding their access to education and heightening the chances that their education is cut short.

Evidence following the 2022 Pakistan floods indicates numerous adverse impacts on women and girls in the contexts of GBV, healthcare, and education and thus merits action.

What can be done?

The evidence above indicates that disasters have gendered implications in the context of migration and displacement. Moreover, an intersectional focus on youth reveals the unique challenges that girls face. As young people, we have a role to play in ensuring that environmental mobility is addressed with an intersectional lens. This means that we need to consider how different factors, such as gender and age, shape experiences and needs. Here are some actions that youth can take:

  1. Urge stakeholders to establish GBV prevention, mitigation, and response frameworks in transportation and accommodation: Gender-responsive transportation options for displaced women and girls must be provided to ensure that commutes to work, school, healthcare facilities and the like are safe to use. Moreover, in line with the GCF approach, the physical design of IDP camps should be considerate of gender dynamics, including the provision of separate accommodation and facilities for women and girls.
  2. Request stakeholders to devise gender-responsive healthcare services and resources: Flood protection strategies must be tailored to densely populated urban and semi-rural zones whilst accounting for gendered implications of displacement such as higher rates of GBV e.g. offering specialized woman-only healthcare specialist clinics or mobile clinics. This also includes mental health counsellors and specialists trained to respond to the unique challenges and traumas facing displaced women and girls. IDP camp facilities ought to likewise ensure that menstrual hygiene products are readily available.
  3. Call on stakeholders to improve accessibility to schooling: The COP29 presents a space to advocate for better education setting across the globe especially for those displaced by disasters, such as exploring how hybrid learning environments and technology can be applied to flood prone areas to reduce the number of children missing out on an education. By increasing and sharing accessible resources more young displaced girls can be educated during disasters which mitigates the after effects.

Authors Bio:

Rebecca photo bioRebecca Bassey holds an M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a B.A. in Politics and Modern History from the University of Manchester. She has extensive experience as a crisis and resilience consultant, specialising in crisis and risk management and she worked on a number of education and youth engagement programmes. Her work includes developing educational programmes to promote economic growth and reduce poverty, providing access to quality education and skills for young people and disadvantaged groups. Rebecca is also a Public Policy Fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar, where she focuses on fostering inclusive communities through public policy initiatives. She participated in the Migrant Youth Leadership Programme with the Center for Gender, Migration and Justice in 2021.

Nath photo bioSitara Nath is currently completing her M.A. in Philosophy and Economics at Universität Bayreuth in Germany; she previously completed her bachelor's degree in Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Portland in the US. Prior to her M.A., she was a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia where she explored her passion for language and cultural exchange. She currently works as an AI Content Creator and additionally serves as the AI Project Focal Point at the Center for Migration, Gender, and Justice (CMGJ).



This article is part of the IOM Blog Series: Youth Voices on Migration, Environment and Climate Change

SDG 13 - Climate Action
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals