The deadliest Ebola outbreak on record is sweeping West Africa, with over 3,400 lives claimed already. The disease is spreading faster than ever before, with the World Health Organization estimating that 20,000 additional cases will be reported by November. And women are being affected most severely; in fact, 75 percent of those who have died from Ebola are women.
“Women have been affected in so many, many ways. Even though the disease of course affects both men and women, women are at a disadvantage — period,” says Marpue Speare, Executive Director of Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL). “Women are on the front lines. They are the caregivers.”
Global Fund for Women is acting quickly to provide crisis support to some of our long-standing grantee partners in Ebola-hit communities in Liberia, and through these groups, we learn how women are being disproportionately affected by the outbreak.
“The crisis is the worst in the Liberia’s history after the civil upheaval that lasted for fourteen years,” says Zaye Fanyean Zarweah of Give Them Hope, Inc., a Global Fund for Women grantee partner. “Everyone lives in fear not knowing who the next victim would be to this deadly virus. Some health workers describe an infected community or region as living near the gate of hell.”
Women are especially vulnerable in rural communities where there are few health clinics. This leaves the women to feed, wash, and care for Ebola victims without even basic protections such as gloves, goggles, or masks — making them extremely vulnerable to contracting the virus. Women also participate in burial rites that require handling infected bodies.