Melina Gates, Co-chair, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has disclosed that, for the COVID-19 pandemic to be eliminated, policy makers and leaders all over the world must respond to the ways it affects men and women differently.
Speaking through a paper she released today in Seattle, United States of America titled “The Pandemic’s toll on women and girls”, she mentioned specific and practical policy recommendations which governments should consider.
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It includes improving the health systems for women and girls, design more inclusive economic policies, gather better data, and prioritize women’s leadership.
Melinda also narrates how previous disease outbreaks, including AIDS and Ebola, tend to exploit existing forces of inequality, particularly around gender, systemic racism, and poverty stressing that the broader impacts of the crisis was having a disproportionate impact on women and girls.
She said in Africa, women account for around 40% of COVID-19 cases, however, African women and girls are disproportionately affected by reduced access to health care services and were at greater risk of gender-based violence.
For her, women make up the majority of workers in the informal sector, which leaves them at greater risk of losing their income.
Melinda lamented the impact of stretched health systems on maternal care, while giving an instance of the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone hence, the number of mothers and babies who died during or after childbirth was higher than the number of deaths from the Ebola virus.
“That is what epidemics do: they not only overwhelm immune systems; they also overwhelm health systems
“And because the parts of those systems devoted to caring for women are often the most fragile and underfunded, they collapse first and fastest,” she said.
In her paper, she called on leaders to ensure that women and girls were not left behind in the world’s response to COVID-19.
Melinda recommended that leaders should include making maternal and reproductive healthcare an essential service, protecting the contraceptive supply chain, and using the pandemic as an opportunity to integrate women’s healthcare.