Tanzania: AfDB releases new report on impact of Ebola on women

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - While projections have been made about the short-, medium-, and long-term impacts of Ebola on the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, it is clear that women in the three countries are likely to experience those impacts disproportionately, according to a new study on the disease that recently devastated the three West African countries.

The African Development Bank (AfDB)-commissioned study, 'Women's Resilience: Integrating Gender in the Response to Ebola', has brought to light a topic that has often been discussed, but never investigated concretely – Did Ebola affect women and men differently?

The office of the AfDB's Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, has launched the report on International Women's Day with a resounding "yes" to the question.

Bank experts have long suspected that infectious diseases tend to exacerbate the socioeconomic vulnerabilities that were present prior to an outbreak, and that knowledge has been confirmed by this AfDB report.

"Yet, it is difficult to speculate with any certainty about the post-Ebola socioeconomic  implications for women given the limited empirical data available now. Data must be disaggregated by gender in all country reports to include statistical analysis on the number of women confirmed, probable, and suspected cases, as well as fatality rates," according to authors of the report.

The AfDB has created the Post-Ebola Social Investment Fund, with a special emphasis on women and girls. Through the Fund, the Bank intends to help women to come out of the current disadvantaged situation and rebuild the financial foundation, particularly in rural areas.

"This US$33 million project, which is being implemented in partnership with the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as well as the US State Department, and under the auspices of Mano River Union Secretariat, looks to support civil society organizations in the region in their efforts to reinvigorate economic empowerment and enhance the livelihoods of women," said Fraser-Moleketi.

Recalling her visit to the three countries in August 2015, she noted:  “I met women and men working tirelessly to eradicate this disease. Countless lives were lost in this battle and the repercussions will be felt for years to come in terms of economic growth. For women, there was, and still is, a danger of reverting to the way things were before.”

Meanwhile, the AfDB has said that its level of ambition in improving quality of life remains high.

It is determined to make the best of its resources to provide access to health, social protection and education to all Africans, men and women, young and old, across the continent, to overcome a key constraint on Africa’s development and set the continent on the path to inclusive growth.

The report investigated the futility of trying to build resilience to Ebola and future infectious disease shocks in households and communities without also addressing systemic gender inequality.

It suggested that factors that entrench vulnerability for the entire population must be addressed in the immediate response, medium-term mitigation and long-term intervention.

"The gender effects of Ebola in the region are influenced by the skills and strategies used prior to the outbreak, and the mechanisms individuals used to cope and adapt differ," said the report.

The report has also highlighted that the lack of gender disaggregated data should not limit interventions, and that all efforts must be made to collect the relevant information to combat the inequalities underscored by disease outbreaks now.

According to its authors, the insights contained in the report are not only invaluable for dealing with other epidemics, but may also assist in the prevention of further outbreaks.
-0- PANA AR/MA 8March2016

08 march 2016 06:38:46

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