Late July 2012, Bodoland (BTAD) went up in flames during ethnic conflict between the Bodos and the migrant Bengali Muslims. This resulted in 95 reported dead and around five lakh ( 500,000 ) displaced people in the relief camps at Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri districts.
Internally Displaced People present the most compelling crises confronting the international humanitarian assistance community today. Each year the number of countries reporting internal displacement increases with women and children bearing the brunt. Within the women the needs of pregnant women are more specific and important from the point of view of maternal health care & humanitarian aspects about the impact of conflict-based displacement.
During conflict woman’s needs are not necessarily the central focus of the efforts being made to help the displaced. Most governments are notoriously gender-insensitive on this count. Shocking conditions are prevailing in these so-called “relief” camps. Apart from the physical conditions, there is little medical care available.
There were over 4,000 pregnant women reported in the relief camps , but no gynecologists. People, including little children, were dying of malaria and diarrhoea.
In the camps we came across women who are finding themselves suddenly alone, heading their households at a time when they are least prepared, when their whole life has been turned upside down. Men become involved in the conflict leaving the woman to fend for herself and the family. Such women will need to be taught specific skills which she can use to earn livelihood to support the family. Women and children are the “vulnerable” category. But women have specific needs that must be addressed. These are not being recognized because for these women must be included in managing these camps.
An additional unspoken burden of displacement has been the sexual violence many women are encountering, within the camps and outside.
Relief efforts in the camps are focusing on the provision of food, water, shelter, and health care, with the overarching goal of reducing morbidity and mortality. Gender-specific needs of pregnant women are not being focused on, especially the mental health needs of pregnant women. Mental health issues such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression needs to be specifically addressed among pregnant women.
This photography project involved meeting up with 52 pregnant women from both the Bodos and Muslim camps.
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