European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Gender- and age-sensitive aid

© European Union

Why is this important?

Natural disasters and man-made crises have a different impact on women, girls, boys, men and elderly people. Therefore, gender and age need to be considered in humanitarian responses to ensure that assistance addresses the specific needs of different groups. For instance, water containers should not be too heavy so that children or elderly people  are able to carry them.

Integrating gender and age enhances the quality of humanitarian programming, in line with the EU's humanitarian mandate and other international commitments. Aid that is not gender and age-sensitive is less effective. It risks not reaching the most vulnerable people or failing to adequately respond to their specific needs. Furthermore, it could expose vulnerable populations to risks such as sexual and gender-based violence.

In order to ensure that the humanitarian response is adapted to address the specific needs of different groups, both women and men, and children should be consulted and should participate in the design, implementation and evaluation of humanitarian actions.  

How are we helping?

The European Commission strives to ensure that gender and age are always mainstreamed in EU-funded humanitarian operations.
Moreover, the Commission supports targeted actions aimed at reaching the needs of specific vulnerable groups, for example:

Nutritional support to pregnant and breast-feeding women and children under the age of five

  • In Chad, the Commission supports UNICEF with €2 million to ensure that 26 000 children suffering from severe and moderate acute malnutrition have access to nutrition services.  

Child protection

  • In Colombia, the Commission supports SOS Children's Villages International with €500 000 to implement mechanisms that strengthen communities, families and children's capacities to protect themselves against forced recruitment by armed groups.

Education in emergencies

  • Education is crucial for both the development and the protection of children. In situations of emergency, education can provide some sense of normality and safety, and it gives children the psycho-social support needed to overcome traumas.

Prevention and response to gender-based violence

  • In 2017, the EU allocated almost €22 million in humanitarian aid for the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence worldwide. For example, since the beginning of the latest South Sudanese crisis, the European Commission has increasingly, both within South Sudan and in countries of asylum for South Sudanese (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan), supported United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations to ensure life-saving gender-based violence services provided in a timely manner to survivors, and to develop effective prevention strategies to decrease the exposure to gender-based violence risks.

The European Commission has developed a gender approach for humanitarian assistance, in line with the 2007 European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid and the recommendations of the 2009 Gender Review report.

This requires that projects funded through the EU humanitarian budget follow the guidance outlined in the 2013 policy Gender in Humanitarian Assistance: Different Needs, Adapted Assistance (brochure version available in English, French and Spanish).

In January 2014, the European Commission introduced the Gender-Age Marker (also available in French and Spanish) as a quality and accountability tool to assess, promote and track EU-funded humanitarian interventions' sensitivity to gender and age.

In 2016, the European Commission issued a new policy on protection, entitled "Humanitarian Protection: Improving protection outcomes to reduce risks for people in humanitarian crises", which stresses the need to take gender into consideration, providing further guidance for programming of protection activities, including gender-based violence.

Ensuring that gender is taken into consideration in EU’s humanitarian aid is also covered in the current European Union Gender Action Plan 2016-2020. It sets out the framework for action for all activities on gender equality and women's empowerment in the European Union's external relations, including for the 28 Member States.

In June 2017, the European Union took over the leadership of the global initiative ‘Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies’. Formally launched in 2013, the 'Call to Action' is a global initiative which brings together more than 70 members, including states, international organisations and non-governmental organisations that aims to drive structural change and foster accountability in the humanitarian system to address gender-based violence. The ‘Call to Action’ Road Map 2016-2020 sets out the operational framework with common objectives for the humanitarian community to be translated into concrete and targeted actions on the ground.

The EU leadership of the Call to Action, which will last until the end of 2018, will be guided by four main priorities:   

  • Increase advocacy on the need to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and amplify the voices of survivors
  • Increase focus on prevention of gender-based violence in emergencies. Measures to mitigate risks must become a reflex for all humanitarian actors
  • Bring the Call to Action to the field, where it can have the biggest impact
  • Implement commitments, following the Call to Action Roadmap 2016-2020

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