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COVID-19’s Gender Implications Examined in Policy Brief from CARE

Photo: Josh Estey/CARE
Photo: Josh Estey/CARE

New York, NY (March 16, 2020) – CARE is deeply concerned about the adverse and disproportionate effects that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely have on women and girls around the world, particularly in development and humanitarian settings. As the healthcare systems in developed countries are overwhelmed by the spread of novel coronavirus, CARE calls on development and humanitarian organizations, national governments, and international donors to consider the gendered implications of the pandemic in a new policy brief titled, “Gendered Implications of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Development and Humanitarian Settings.”

“We know that when emergencies hit, women and girls come last,” says CARE’s Humanitarian Policy Director Susannah Friedman. “Our new policy brief synthesizes lessons learned during previous public health emergencies, including Ebola and Zika, and shows that even though current data might indicate that men and the elderly are more likely to contract the virus, women and girls will still suffer inequitable hardships as a result of the pandemic.”

Development and humanitarian programs that support women and girls are often disrupted during public health emergencies, although their needs may in fact be amplified. This can have serious implications for women and girls in the short and long term. Some of the reasons that women and girls will be more impacted by the crisis include but are not limited to:

  • Social norms, which put a heavy caregiving burden on women and girls in many countries, are likely to cause their physical and mental health to suffer and impede their access to education, livelihood sources, and other critical support;
  • Women’s and girls’ needs for protection services—including gender-based violence and intimate partner violence prevention and mitigation—are likely to increase as the accessibility of these services declines, as CARE saw while working on Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Children face particular protection risks, including that of being separated from their caregivers;
  • Evidence suggests that during past public health emergencies, resources have been diverted from routine health care services toward containing and responding to the outbreak. These reallocations constrain already limited access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, such as clean and safe deliveries, contraceptives, and pre- and post-natal health care;
  • Public health emergencies can have a tremendous, sustained impact on livelihoods. This can be particularly true for women, who are more likely to be engaged in informal or low-wage activities or migrant work;
  • During public health crises, resources may be reallocated away from water, sanitation, and hygiene services, which can contribute to reduced access to hygiene and sanitary materials for women and girls;
  • Food may become scarcer during a public health emergency, forcing households to engage in negative coping mechanisms, such as consuming less food. Where women eat last and least, this can lead to additional health complications, including increased susceptibility to COVID-19.

The dangers that COVID-19 outbreaks pose will be magnified for the nearly 168 million people around the world already in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Conflict, inadequate conditions in displacement settings, and constrained resources are likely to amplify the need for additional support and funding. Accordingly, “Gendered Implications of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Development and Humanitarian Settings” includes recommendations for health services delivery actors, development and humanitarian organizations, national governments, and international donors on how to mitigate the disproportionate gender impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Above all else, CARE calls upon the international community to commit to proactive, early information sharing and coordination to ensure a robust global response that utilizes intersectional analyses to account for the needs of all individuals, irrespective of ethnicity, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. These efforts should take place with the full participation of at-risk populations, particularly women and girls. It is only through such an intersectional analysis that the international community can fully understand the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and put an adequate response into action.

Full report is available here.

Executive summary available here.


Media contact: Kalei Talwar

Press Officer

email: kalei.talwar@care.org |  skype: kalei.talwar

cell: +1 808-381-6901

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