Gender Equality within Disaster Resilience and Recovery 

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Gender Equality within Disaster Resilience and Recovery
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Hurricane Katrina is one of the horrible natural disasters that have ever hit the United States. The disaster killed approximately 1800 people and displaced thousands of others causing a lot of damage to the population in Louisiana, Alabama, and New Orleans. One of the significant factors during and after the disaster was the unpreparedness of the United States government in its handling of the disaster. Secondly, the storm exposed the high level of poverty that the people in the Gulf Coast were experiencing most especially African Americans. Racism and gender equality was the most significant issue during and after the storm.
This paper explores the level of vulnerability of different gender groups such as women and men and the unpreparedness of the United States’ government in its mitigation and response to the natural disaster. Additionally, the paper explores the chronology of events before and after Hurricane Katrina. Lastly, the paper examines the gender proportions, recommendations and the significance of involving women in the planning and disaster policies.

Problem Statement
Women, men, boys, and girls belong to different socioeconomic branches and distinct vulnerabilities. Hence, during and after the disaster, each will have different experiences depending on the different vulnerability levels of the group and their recover from the experience. Women suffer the most, during and after disasters. Dankelm (2010) narrates that women go through a lot of psychological and mental torture. Most women go through sexual assault such as rape, from the opposite gender in the society. Besides, there are gender inequalities in the society especially in decision-making processes, and the disadvantaged group is mostly women. Despite the international community acknowledgment of different experiences and skills that men and women bring to the society, women are still lagging behind in economic, political and legal adventures. Hence are less able to cope with and more exposed to adverse effects of climatic changes.
Women’s experiences during and after a disaster play an important part in supporting their empowerment, and positively impact the nation’s attitudes toward climatic changes. However, the society continues to ignore the recurrent of the women’s socioeconomic disadvantages due to rampant impacts of gender inequalities. When a society leaves women out of disaster response plans or risk reduction measures, it ignores women’s strengths and the special talents they possess. Therefore, such decisions by the society affect women’s overall well-being and their ability to recover.
As the world stays in contention with the preparedness and mitigation of the disasters, it is important that the mitigation and adaptation processes should incorporate gender issues at all levels. As a result, this will help in minimizing risks to both women and children and will also ensure the success of the efforts to address the climate change.
The Event
On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst storms ever to hit the United States touched down in the southern region of the United States. The storm destroyed the states of the south such as Louisiana, Mississippi, New Orleans and Alabama. It also affected people’s lives. After the storm, most of the stranded people were the black women who were doing all they could to ease their children’s hunger and thirst in the inhumane conditions. Additionally, elderly women were left in the nursing homes as they awaited help from the federal government that came far too late. Typically, there were mostly the black women who stayed behind in the flooded hospitals to take care of the patients. Most of them stayed for more than four days without clean water, clothing, and food. The storm displaced other families in the Gulf Coast. Statistics indicate that approximately 1,800 individuals perished during the heavy storms while 400,000 people were displaced. One of the most damaged cities was the New Orleans. Eighty percent of the city was flooded because the breaches and the city’s levees burst, and the storm swept away most of the levees (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010).
In the early morning of August 29th, 2005, the strong waves known as Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States. When the storm landed, the scientist categorized it as a Category 3 rating on the Hurricane scale known as Saffir-Simpson. The storm brought about 100-140 wind miles per hour, which stretched for some 400 miles across. The storm led to a great deal of damage, but the results of the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina were the most catastrophic. After the storm, levy breaches led to massive flooding and many people argued that the federal government was slow in meeting the poor people's needs. As a result of the storm, hundreds of people, notably from the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the New Orleans were displaced. The experts approximate the damage level that Hurricane Katrina caused to over $100 billion.
Before the Storm
On August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina started forming over The Bahamas. The meteorologists were able to warn people in the Gulf Coast states of the major storm that was underway. Beginning August 28th, the government declared the storm a national disaster and ordered people to evacuate across the regions that the meteorologists mentioned. On this day, the National Weather Service made a prediction that after the occurrence of the storm; the Gulf Coast area parts will not be habitable for weeks or longer than that.
One of the towns that were at risk was New Orleans. In the course of the 20th century, the Army Corps of Engineers builds levees and seawalls that helped in keeping the city away from the flooding. Levees built along the Mississippi River were very strong and also sturdy. The government built a system of the canal in the New Orleans, as it was a profitable area for both imports and exports of goods. The government built levees as early as in the 1800s to make it easier for the navigations and reduce the flooding (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010).
A levee is an artificially reinforced embankment that is built to prevent rivers from flooding or overflowing into the low-lying areas. During the 20th century, the levees were built by considering the heaviness of the storms that occurred in those days hence the levees were overwhelmed by the Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans was entirely affected as the levees did not withstand the magnitude of the storm. Firstly, the city was built on top of the sediments that were unconsolidated, and the sediments were sinking since they were built. The approximate meters per year of the city’s sinking were 11 meters per year. At the same time, the sea level was rising to 1-2metres a year (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010).
Till the arrival of the Hurricane Katrina, an undergoing study of how to upgrade the levee system in the New Orleans such that the system could withstand a category four or five storms was going on. The study begun in 2000 and the environmentalists approximated it to several years of conducting the research. The Corp’s senior project manager for the New Orleans District stated that it would take 20-50 years before the completion of upgrading of the levee system. The study had one major problem. It would not encompass the environmental changes while the study was in progress or even while the upgrading was taking place (Handwerk, 2005).
However, the levees built along Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne, and the waterlogged swamps were not as reliable as the government thought. Before the storm, the engineering officials feared that the levees would not withstand the massive storm surge. Hence, the neighbors who sat below the sea level and housed the poorest and most vulnerable city’s people were at a very high risk of flooding.
On the day before the Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued the first ever mandatory evacuation order of the city (Affairs, 2007). Additionally, he professed that the Superdome stadium would serve as the only shelter of the last resort for the citizens who were not able to leave the city. Some of the people of New Orleans approximately 112,000 did not get access to cars, hence they took shelter in the Superdome. By nightfall, the government already evacuated eighty percent of the city's population. Nearly 10,000 people decided to shelter in the Superdome while other tens of thousands decide to wait for the storms in their homes.
Early stages of the Hurricane Katrina Storm
Over the Bahamas, a tropical depression started forming in the afternoon of August 23rd. The swirling wind drew its strength from the Atlantic Ocean and grew. The National Hurricane Center began issuing an advisory in the Miami, Florida. On the following day, August 24th, the storm became more concentrated in the East of Nassau. On August 25th, the Hurricane wind strengthened, and the environmentalists categorized it as one Hurricane. On the same day at 7 pm, the storm made its landfall ashore in Florida. The storm killed two people by a tree blown that the strong wind blew over, one person was in Fort Lauderdale and another in the plantation. Consequently, the wind left half a million people without power (Brown, 2015).
On August 26th, the Hurricane Katrina became weak as it crossed Florida hence losing its status as a Hurricane. However, the storm strengthened as it touched down the Gulf of Mexico. It became the most catastrophic of Hurricanes, a category 5 with 155-MPH winds. In the morning of the 26th, the National Weather Service announced that the Hurricane will hit New Orleans in the next 24 hours (Brown, 2015). Thus, the United States Coast guards activated the reservists, called its National Guard and declared a state of emergency in the state of Mississippi. Similarly, the local government declared a state of emergency in the state of Louisiana.
On August 27th, 2005, the Hurricane Katrina was in category 3 and the size had doubled. On this day, the then President George W Bush declared a state of emergency in parts such as Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Additionally, a Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew into Katrina Storm to measure the wind speed, barometric pressure, and other data. On August 28th, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin issued a mandatory evacuation order immediately after Katrina picked up speed and again reclassified to category four storms. At 11.00 a.m. The hurricane Katrina storm became worse to about 175 miles per hour and the environmentalist categorized as category five Hurricane. The New Orleans residents started leaving the city. However, thousands were not able to leave due to lack of cars for transportation. Many of the residents found shelter in the Louisiana Superdome.
On August 29th, 2005, a major flooding occurred in New Orleans as Katrina landed with its strongest winds weakening slightly. On the 28th, before the Hurricane Katrina storm hit the US, it rained heavily hours till morning when the storm struck on Monday, August 29th. The storm surged and overwhelmed many of the city's levees and the drainage canals. Most of the drainage pipes burst to lead to the overflow of water to as high as over 20 feet. In the New Orleans, for example, a section of the 17th Street Canal Levee failed to cause flooding in the area (Dudley, 2006). Water seeped through the underneath soil and swept away some of the levees built in the 20th century. By 9.a.m, places such as St. Bernard Parish and Ninth Ward were under a lot of water, making people get to the rooftops and attics for safety. In no time, nearly 80% of the city was under water.
The city lost clean water and electricity, and the communication was cut off (Tarshis & Dawson, 2011). More than 1500 people died in the Louisiana, including 30 residents of St. Rita’s Nursing Home. Additionally, more than 200 people died in Mississippi. On the August 30th, 2005, the New Orleans worsened as hotels turned guests away, and people started looting. Crowds entered the Superdome. However, in the evening, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco toured the city and issued an evacuation for the people in the Superdome. The storm started dying out, thus leading to a heavy rainfall in Tennessee.
On August 31st, 2005, citizens were unable to leave. The health and human services Secretary Mr. Michael O Leavitt announced a public health state of emergency in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. On September 1st, 2005, there were reported crimes in the New Orleans. There were reports of looting, shooting, carjacking and raping of women of color. On this day, the New Orleans’s governor demanded help from the Federal Government who had not responded to the poor people’s plea yet (Cooper & Block, 2013). The people in the Superdome suffered due to lack of basic needs such as and clean water.
On the September 2nd, aids arrived amid criticisms that the government was not providing any aid to the thousands of the affected people as they went without food, shelter and electricity for a whole week. The United Nation’s Guard troops and convoys arrived at the New Orleans with food, water, and medical supplies. Additionally, the government deployed troops to the area due to an increase in the crime rate. The then President George Bush acknowledged that the initial relief was not sufficient to the affected citizens, hence Congress approved a $10.5 billion in aid.
On September 3rd, Bush orders an additional 7,200 active duty troops to the New Orleans totaling to 30,000 troops. FEMA specified that the storm overpowered the agency. The estimation of the death toll was in the thousands, and the rape cases grew high besides the reported gunfire in the New Orleans convention center. On September 4th, the nation managed to evacuate people from the Superdome fully. However, nearly 2000 people were still housed in the Louis Armstrong International Airport as they had serious medical problems. At the beginning of the rescue operation, the US coast guard rescued more than 15,000 people. On September 5th, workers started to plug the gap in the 17th Street Canal Levee. The then President George Bush returned to the affected regions, and the former Presidents Bill Clinton and George HW Bush announced a Hurricane Fund (Rodgers, 2007). On the same day, more of the National Guard troops were dispatched to search and rescue the affected people.
On September 6th, 2005, both the executive and the legislative arm of the government initiated separate investigations into the criticisms and the slow federal response (Daniels, Kettl, & Kunreuther, 2006). The United States’ Army Corps of Engineers started pumping water out of the city reducing the flooding of the New Orleans to 60%. Only a few people less than 10,000 remained in the city, and FEMA promised to give debit cards to the affected people for their necessities (Levitt & Whitaker, 2009). On September 7th, Bush asked for an additional budget of $51.8 billion after the Congress passed the then $10.5 billion.
It is critical to provide quantitative data when researching on the impacts of the disasters and in crediting or disapproving some emergency management systems. The study will use two strategies of comparative analysis and the systematic literature. First, the study will examine the documented differential impacts of natural disasters on both women and men in the immediate, medium and long-term. The report will focus on the medium and long-term impacts with respect to the crisis immediately following the Hurricane Katrina. In this methodology, database analysis and the chronological review of the related publications on Hurricane Katrina is the core in the study.
Also, included in this study will be to review the gender proportions of disaster preparedness and mitigation. It will include early warning systems, evacuation routes, and information and communication issue. Additionally, there will be an assessment of the different needs of men and women for reconstruction goals and the ways in which men and women differently engage in reconstruction efforts.
Research Questions and Hypothesis
Is gender equality prevalent within disaster resilience and recovery?
What is the impact of gender equality within disaster resilience and recovery?
What are the ways of reinforcing gender equality within disaster resilience and recovery?
Gender equality is significant within disaster resilience and recovery.
Literature Review
The gender gap always emerges as a factor in times of disaster and its aftermath. In every disaster, gender is not neutral. During the 1995 Kobe in Japan, one and half more women died than men. Similarly, in the 1991 flood in Bangladesh, five times as many women as men died (Neumayer & Plumper). On the same note, the 2004 tsunami indicated that the death rates for women across the region were 3-4 times that of their male counterparts. Therefore, there is the need for an explanation about the gender, class and the racial dimensions of each disaster. The feminists who were working in the relief agencies of the United Nations noted several factors that explain the reason behind the gender skew in the 2004 tsunami deaths (Neumayer & Plumper).
One of the notable reasons is the fact that there are different social roles between men and women. Society always gives women the responsibilities of caring for the young ones, hence in disaster; most young ones drag women behind making them more vulnerable than their male counterparts. Tierney (2015) linked gender to power, privilege and everyday social roles among others. She indicated that gender influences the behaviors of both men and women. In addition, she indicated that women are more risk aversive compared to men as they tend to believe the disaster warnings willingly compared to men. However, since men make most of the decisions such as the evacuating decisions, women are always overruled.
Bradshaw and Fordham (2013) discussed the different impacts that both men and women have after the natural disasters. The two authors noted that women and men experience disaster differently. In their research, they noted that women are more likely to die during disasters than men. For instance, reports indicate that during the cyclone of 1991 in Bangladesh, approximately 90% of the 140,000 people who died were women. Similar approximately 61% of the people who died in Burma as a result of Hurricane Nargis were women. Additionally, more women than men died during the Indian Ocean tsunami that approximates to about 67% of the population that perished. Some of the reasons that researchers account for the more women deaths during disasters is due to various things such as pregnancies, breastfeeding and the general health status of women such as undernourishment.
Other issues that women face during the disasters are sexual violence in addition to domestic violence. One of the most rampant issues facing women in post disasters is sexual violence, such as rape and sexual abuse during this period. For example; in New Orleans reports of raping women were high in the aftermath of the Katrina storm. Another effect of the post-disaster is the psychosocial impact where women suffer more post-traumatic stress than men. Women show more distress than men after disasters. Besides, women experience a higher effect after a disaster than men as they experience distress, anxiety and downward mobility more than men following a disaster.
Women of Color in the New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina
Prior to the Hurricane Katrina, 80% of the New Orleans residents were the African American citizens. Of this population, the African American Population constituted the majority in the lower socioeconomic area which led to them being the most vulnerable group compared to the male gender. Several studies have explored the Hurricane Katrina and the disaster recovery methods in the New Orleans (King, 2011). However, only a few studies have talked about gender the natural disaster and the recovery. Using the case study of women in the New Orleans this study explores the experiences that the women go through during the natural disasters. Prior to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, nearly twice as many people in the New Orleans were below the poverty level than there was nationally, with an approximate percentage of 24% versus the 13.3% nationally. The African Americans comprised two-thirds of the population, which was extremely marginalized.
Before the occurrence of Hurricane Katrina, most women in New Orleans were marginalized. More than one woman in four women lived in abject poverty. Additionally, 15% of all the families in the New Orleans were living below the poverty line as compared to the 14.5 % nationally. Women of color were over half the population of the New Orleans both in pre and post-Katrina (King, 2011). The women were at a significant risk of being poor prior to the Katrina. For example, most of them did not have jobs; others did not get access to education compared to the white women. Hence, the black women were a representation of the racial group that experienced the most socioeconomic disadvantages influenced by the intersection of race, gender, and class.
In this study, the aim is to ensure that the disaster policy reforms ensure that there are adequate assistance and the recovery of all the affected people in disaster regardless of the race, gender and class. It is also essential for the disaster management policies to be sensitive to the gender in their policies and practices. Moreover, it is important that the gender inequalities do not impact the disaster recovery process when a disaster occurs. Women of color in the New Orleans were the most victimized gender.
Recent studies have explored the experiences that the black people, especially women went through after the Hurricane Katrina. During the time that the government issued the evacuation orders, women of color were in the forefront in mobilizing the successful evacuations of about 25 individuals who would not have left. The successful evacuation was as a result of the existing network ties that the black women had with their communities. For this reason, it is clear that government networks did not carry as much impact on the evacuation process as the impact of the black women. Hence, the role of women within various communities is a significant factor in the events of the disaster.
During the hurricane Katrina disaster, women were displaced as a result. The black women experienced challenging parental issues after the Katrina. Most women were significantly responsible for the parental care activities. It was not all rosy for the black women as they lacked necessities; they lacked agencies and had fewer resources to perform their duties. The extraordinary experience that the black women had should be a wake-up call for the disastrous policy makers to include women in the disaster management policies. Following the Katrina storm of 2005, women who were living in New Orleans were 2.7 times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder than men. Stress disorder can affect their social welfare as well as the women’s ability to carry out their day to day responsibilities thus making them the most vulnerable group during a disaster.
According to researchers, women are the most vulnerable group during disaster risks. However, most of the organizations do not include them during decision making/ disaster management programs. The socioeconomic, cultural and political exclusion of the women is the one that exacerbates their vulnerability as it partly prevents them from decision-making that affects their lives. Therefore, most of the organs that deal with disaster resilience and management do not consult or involve women in their work. The emergency preparedness and response programs usually exclude women’s views.

Hurricane Katrina and the impacts it had on women in the Post-Katrina in New Orleans
After the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the victims experienced a crisis. Hurricane being the worst natural disaster that hit the United States caused physical devastation and also led to the mental health difficulties among the survivors. Research indicates that the low-income women of color were the most affected as they were at particular risk of suffering the adverse effects. Evidence from researchers suggests that Hurricane Katrina had both immediate and lasting adverse health and mental health consequences. An assessment of the residents who returned to New Orleans was done by the Centers for Disease control and prevention in October 2005. During the assessment period, results indicated that more than 50% showed signs of need for mental health treatment. In 2006, another study of the families who were living in the FEMA-subsidized hotels reported that there was a high rate of disabilities especially among the caregivers of the children. The result was due to the stress, depression and anxiety among other psychiatric problems (Rhodes & Chan, 2010). The survey also reported high rates of chronic health problems as well as the continued experience of poor mental and physical health 15 months after the Katrina.
In another cross-section, other researchers indicated that there were long-term persistent symptoms with women reporting the highest levels of Post-traumatic stress disorder compared to their male counterparts. Low-income families that did not have access to transportation during the Hurricane Katrina were in deprivation, stress and had a lot of fear immediately after the Hurricane Katrina. Based on the existing research about the effects of the Hurricane Katrina, it had an effect on various dimensions of impairment and disability among the adults in the New Orleans. The increase in the mental impairment among the survivors of the storm led to higher rates of psychological stress that the population experienced. The research noted that the physical impairments may have arisen because of the effects such as injuries, as well as a decline the physical health brought out by the post-disaster stress.
In a recent study, about the post-Hurricane Katrina victims, it indicated a rise in death rates in post-Katrina disaster and the death rate had risen by nearly 50%. Months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, there was a rise in suicide rates to about 300% and most of the people who were and are still dying are women. There is also a lot of substance abuse and other mental health needs among most of the women in New Orleans.
Gender proportions of disaster preparedness and mitigation
In the case of Hurricane Katrina, warnings of the storm disseminated and were extensive. The advisories issued by the National Hurricane Centre were fairly accurate and in advance of the storm’s landfall. Some of the specific information was the projected path, the impact areas, the storm surge as well as the potential consequences in the Gulf Coast areas. After the warning and mandatory evacuations had been made by the federal government, about 1.2 million people sought shelter in several places. Some people underestimated the risk potential, and the local government made late mandatory evacuations in the New Orleans. Mayor Ray Nagin fell short of the required compliance with the state’s evacuation that mandates an evacuation period of 30 hours at least. The government also took more than four days after the Hurricane Katrina to approve $62 billion in Hurricane relief aid. Most of the vulnerable group was women, yet they played an important part in caring for the patients in hospitals and also organizing for the evacuations, unlike men. In the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina, many women were abused sexually.
Communities, therefore, need to plan how to alleviate the difficulties faced by women during a disaster. Measures that the local governments, as well as the federal government, need to put in place are to prevent additional hardships, especially to women. For instance, having emergency contraceptives, antibiotic as well as making arrangements to help evacuate the people who are elderly and those without cars. Another gap that the disaster preparation and policy do not do is that they do not always involve women in leadership roles like they do with men. For example, women in New Orleans also tried to help people evacuate, but the disaster preparation and policies did not include them in making any decisions.
Moreover, there is the need for the government and organizations that deal with disaster management to know the level of vulnerability and how different genders are affected during the crisis. The information will help in mitigating disaster as the workers will focus on the most vulnerable group and provide invaluable resources for disaster planning. The most important preparedness measures that the government and the local people should do irrespective of their gender differences are as follows. First, it should do evacuation planning as a community, design the alternative forms of preparedness as well as warning systems that reach impaired people. In mitigating the disaster, the disaster management and policy team should work hand in hand with both men and women in hazard identification. Secondly, they should do mapping, develop a list of citizens who need special assistance as well as holding public education programs.
Discussion and Analysis
The government started issuing mandatory evacuations in the city of Gulf following the coming of the Hurricane Katrina. The government also warned people of the impending disaster, but it did not do enough. The evacuation warning came far too late and most people, especially those low-income individuals who never had cars perished in the incident. The government would have made preparations as early as possible to cater for the people who were affected by the storm. Additionally, there was a delayed response by the government in the aftermath of the disaster as the affected people went without food and other basic needs for almost four days. The country had only factored in terrorism as the main project of offering security to its citizens, but did forget the impending Hurricane danger that the people were to face.
The homeland security, for example, waited for about 36 hours before declaring a state of national security after Katrina struck. Furthermore, the military did not activate a task force to respond to the problems that the affected people were facing. Besides, the Federal Emergency Measurement Agency was not able to grasp the magnitude of the disaster. The head of FEMA for example, seemed not to understand the size of the Hurricane storm.
Nevertheless, the government learned a lesson of its unpreparedness hence put up measures to curb any further disasters of the kind (Daniels, Kettl, & Kunreuther, 2006). For example, the government started the reconstruction of better levee collection structures than those put in place. Secondly, the government is offering training and educational programs to help create public awareness of the dangers of disasters as well as the actions that they should take regarding those dangers among others.
In conclusion, the government should always prepare on how to mitigate and respond to the disaster in any parts of the area. Secondly, the society should embrace women and know their importance when finding solutions, especially disaster management ways and policies. Thirdly, the disaster management organs should recognize the vulnerability level of some gender groups, such as women so that they include them in their preparation and mitigation plans. Additionally, the government should put mechanisms to avert the dangers that women go through after disasters.

First, the government should educate and train the citizens on the dangers of natural disasters to help them understand its magnitude. Secondly, the government should also include women in their mitigation and preparedness programs as they are the vulnerable groups. Thirdly, the government should ensure that the engineers review the engineering process of every city so that everyone is certain of the construction structures withstanding any disasters. Again the government should put up short and long-term measures in case of any occurrence of disasters.

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