Nepal | August 08, 2020

Global response to COVID-19 must address rights of women

Dr Natalia Kanem, Mark Lowcock
Share Now:

May 8, 2020

Dr Natalia Kanem and Mark Lowcock

In a week in which people in some parts of the world have been given cause for optimism that they have passed the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how the extraordinary actions of individuals can change the trajectory for a whole nation.

Retired doctors putting themselves back on the front line, nurses making their own face masks so they can treat the sick, parents separated from their children so they can care for people suffering from the virus.

More often than not, these are women. Globally, women make up 70 per cent of the health workforce. They also have the majority of care-giving roles in homes and in communities. Women do this essential work in spite of obstacles and inequalities.

That’s why our updated Global Humanitarian Response Plan to fight coronavirus, published on May 7, has women at its heart. We know from experience that investing in women and girls produces dividends for all. We see that again with COVID-19.

In hospitals and in homes, women are on the frontline in this fight against COVID-19. We know local actions translate into global gains. If there is one thing we have learned about this pandemic, it’s that the world is in this together and we can only defeat it if we act as one.

According to the International Labour Organisation, women perform 76 per cent of the total hours of unpaid care work globally. They will carry more of the weight of caring for the sick and helping to stem the spread of the virus.

We must equip women with what they need. Let’s enable them to stay safe and supported. It’s the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do so they can continue to save and improve lives.

As health systems become stretched, many people with COVID-19 will need to be cared for at home. This will add to women’s workload, and put them at greater risk of becoming infected.

And as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, we know we have another epidemic to overcome – the violence perpetrated against women, and the inequalities that leave them more likely to be living in poverty and without access to essential services.

We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19. Yet they can trap women with abusive partners. Over the last few weeks, there has been a dramatic jump in reported incidences of domestic violence in many countries.  In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled.

Humanitarian settings already stressed by years of war and poverty will not be any different, except that often there are few places to report the abuse or to seek shelter so that women and their children can stay safe.

If we are serious about defeating this virus, we must promote and protect the health and rights of women, for their own well-being and so that they can continue to promote and protect the health of others.

That is why the UN’s global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19 sets out specific actions to achieve this in the most vulnerable settings.

This global plan is already helping install hand-washing facilities that are safe for women and girls to access; deliver vital medical equipment and supplies, including to address women’s health; and getting aid workers and supplies to where they are needed most.

The plan recognises the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls. It also recognises their power to defeat the virus. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will use resources from the appeal to prioritise the needs of women and girls – including working with women’s groups on the ground to create safe spaces.

All this is possible because of the generosity of donors. Much more is needed. We count on donors to continue funding the COVID-19 humanitarian response plan while sustaining support for existing humanitarian and refugee response plans.

And we urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.

Every day, women are overcoming obstacles and inequalities to treat and care for those infected with the virus, working hard to contain the virus, and helping their families and communities protect themselves.

We owe it to these women to give them the tools and services they need, and the justice and equality that is their right – in hospitals, in homes and in their communities.

We are determined to do everything we can to fight this deadly virus, and that means addressing the inequalities that will otherwise hold all of us back.

Kanem is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UNFPA, and Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Sevilla, Leverkusen cruise into Europa League quarter-finals

Five-times winners Sevilla made light work of AS Roma when first half goals from Sergio Reguilon and Youssef En-Nesyri gave them a 2-0 win over AS Roma and sent them into the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday. Sevilla's win, in a tie reduced to a single match played in Duisberg, Ge Read More...

Mexico, coronavirus outbreak;

Mexico's coronavirus death toll tops 50,000

MEXICO CITY: Mexico's health ministry on Thursday reported 6,590 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 819 fatalities, bringing the country's totals to 462,690 cases and 50,517 deaths. The virus is spreading quickly; just over two weeks ago, the health ministry reported 40,000 deaths. M Read More...

University of Washington forecasts 300,000 US COVID-19 deaths

WASHINGTON: Nearly 300,000 Americans could be dead from COVID-19 by Dec. 1, University of Washington health experts forecast on Thursday, although they said 70,000 lives could be saved if people were scrupulous about wearing masks. The prediction by the university's widely cited Institute for Read More...


Licence of child care home seized

Kathmandu, August 6 The National Child Rights Council, under the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, seized the licence of Kapan-based Care Child Orphanage following the rescue of 11 children sheltering there yesterday. Stating that the orphanage had violated the provisions in the Read More...

Covid-19 positive Province 2 home minister in home isolation

JANAKPURDHAM/KATHMANDU, AUGUST 6 Province 2 Internal Affairs and Law Minister Gyanendra Yadav has contracted COVID and has been staying in ‘isolation at his home as per the doctor’s advice’ since he tested positive for the virus’. Yadav, who is asymptomatic, has urged everyone who Read More...

Student enrolment remains uncertain

Kathmandu, August 6 Mainly private schools in the country have been running online classes. However, due to poor internet facility and frequent power cuts, online classes have not been effective in Nepal. Preparations to resume student enrolment since August 17 have been marred by increasin Read More...

Community spread feared in Siraha

Siraha, August 6 The spread of COVID-19 in the community has caused terror in Siraha of late. Just yesterday, four persons involved in different occupations tested positive for the virus here, according to District Health Office. Two of the four are health professionals of a polyclinic; one Read More...

VTM crunch hits Banke

Nepalgunj, August 6 The shortage of Viral Transport Medium used for collecting and transporting swab samples has hit the health offices in Banke. The local levels bought the VTMs and offered them to health offices as they did not have it. Mayor of Nepalgunj sub-metropolis Dhawal Shamsher Ra Read More...