reliefweb | Taking a gender perspective of the COVID-19 outbreak affecting Cameroon is not a luxury – it’s essential to a safe public health response for all. Disease outbreaks affect women and men, girls and boys differently, due to sex but also to pre-existing gender inequalities. Girls, boys, women and men are all exposed to different risks given the different roles they play in families and communities. The gender inequalities that existed before the coronavirus crisis also mean that they will have different coping capacities and distinct abilities to recover. Understanding these differences is essential for creating effective and equitable interventions for everyone.
Women are eventually more likely to be infected by the virus, as they predominantly care for children, the elderly and sick members of the family. Similarly, girls, who are drafted into care duties, are more likely to be exposed than boys. In the case of COVID-19 with the elderly being particularly at-risk and schools temporarily closing, this places additional pressure on women’s workloads as well as their health.
As most of the workers in the health and social sector are women, they will be placed at particular risk due to their contact with, and care for, persons with COVID-19.
What humanitarian actors should do
Pay attention to social, cultural and gender norms: Power dynamics and gender roles within the family and the community influence women’s and men’s vulnerability to infection, exposure, care seeking and risk-taking behavior, and possibility of accessing treatment. Consider also how multiple forms of discrimination, such as poverty, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation, can create different forms of vulnerability among groups of women and men. This will help you tailor messaging that target those at risk.
Develop communication tools that are understandable to all, translated into local languages and suitable for people with low literacy levels. Communication products should be adapted for people with disabilities and for older people.
Provide specific advice and support to those who won’t be able to isolate due to the necessity of maintaining their livelihood. Also, women may not be able to avoid close contact with those they care for. Such support includes the provision of cash, water and soap, etc.
Provide specific advice for men on how to support as care takers and the necessity of doing so for the entire family and community’s health.
What health actors should do
Collect and use sex and age-disaggregated data to understand how COVID-19 impacts individuals differently. This information will allow developing adequate prevention measures as well as care and treatment protocols.
Provide priority support to female health workers on the frontlines of the response, ensuring they equally access protective equipment. They should benefit of flexible working arrangements for those with a burden of care or of support for child and elderly care.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.