AfDB releases new report on the impact of Ebola on women

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On the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016, the Office of the African Development Bank’s Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, has launched a report on “Women’s Resilience: Integrating Gender in the Response to Ebola.”

The AfDB-commissioned study brings to light a topic that has often been discussed, but never investigated concretely – did Ebola affect women and men differently? The answer is a resounding yes. Bank experts have long suspected that infectious diseases tend to exacerbate the socio-economic vulnerabilities that are present prior to an outbreak, and that knowledge has been confirmed by this AfDB report.

Having visited Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Conakry in August 2015, at the height of the epidemic, VP Fraser-Moleketi 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.”

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

The report also highlights 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. The insights contained in this report are not only invaluable for dealing with other epidemics, but may also assist in the prevention of further outbreaks.

One of the recommendations of the report was to establish a Social Investment Fund. The AfDB has since invested $33 million into the Post-Ebola Social Investment Fund, a project supported by the US State Department.

The African Development Bank’s 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.