Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Kaveh Khoshnood

Second Advisor

Bandy Lee



INTRODUCTION: In the last decade, over 800 disasters struck Latin America and the Caribbean, cumulatively affecting an estimated 64 million people. Three quarters of the region’s population lives in disaster risk areas. There is widespread consensus that sexual violence increases in the aftermath of disasters, however historically its prevention has not been prioritized, and in general it remains a vastly understudied phenomenon at the intersection of health and human rights. The linkage between sexual violence and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the post-disaster context is similarly unrepresented in the literature.

OBJECTIVES: This systematic review aims to assess the extent to which sexual violence in the post-disaster context has been studied in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. The primary objectives of the review include (1) to identify and assess the quality of existing literature on sexual violence in the post-disaster context in Latin America and the Caribbean; (2) to assess whether ostensible increases in incidence of sexual violence and HIV infection in the post-disaster context are supported by the existing literature; and (3) to describe contextual factors of the post-disaster context that exacerbate sexual violence vulnerabilities.

METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was conducted by searching PubMed, Ovid Global Health, Web of Science and LILACS databases for relevant publications on sexual violence in post-disaster Latin America and the Caribbean (n=147). Exclusion criteria were applied and 10 articles investigating the 2010 earthquake in Haiti (n=7), the 2007 earthquake in Peru (n=1), Hurricane Noel (2007) in the Dominican Republic (n=1), and Hurricane Mitch (1998) in Honduras and Nicaragua (n=1) were ultimately reviewed.

RESULTS: The results of this systematic review indicate that sexual violence increases in the aftermath of natural disasters and that women and girls are the most vulnerable populations. Sexual violence may also increase risk of HIV, however there is insufficient evidence to support an association between sexual violence and HIV at the population level. Structural and social factors, most notably gender inequality, exacerbate sexual violence vulnerabilities in the post-disaster context.

CONCLUSIONS: There is an urgent need for additional research investigating sexual violence in the global post-disaster context in order to inform prevention efforts and disaster preparedness and to uphold human rights.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access