Gendering the Ebola Outbreak: Connecting the Missing Dots
Written by: Masa Amir & Caroline Kiarie
Ebola is indeed a great scare. News coverage of the outbreak, which has included sensational and heartbreaking stories of bodies of Ebola patients left to rot in the streets, clashes brought about by resisting quarantine, and narratives that have bluntly declared that there is “no end in sight” to the outbreak have indeed painted a picture of impending doom. As of 4 September, the virus has resulted in 1841 deaths in the three worst Ebola-hit West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since its outbreak in March, according to the latest update from the WHO issued that day. On 29 August, 2014, Senegal confirmed its first case of Ebola while Nigeria has reported 21 cases and 7 deaths. Despite advice from the World Health Organization against travel bans, in an apparent scramble to fight the seemingly unstoppable outbreak, the list of countries that have issued travel bans from the three Ebola-hit countries is growing, currently including Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa. The travel restrictions and other related business consequences directly linked to the outbreak provokes the rhetorical question of exactly what impact the outbreak has had on the livelihoods, psychological, physical and economic well-being of the impacted individuals and communities. Others are wondering about the socio-political and economic stability of the West African community as a whole.
The outbreak has brought to the fore discussions about the ethics of experimental therapies and the inequalities of access to them; the investment required to control the outbreak, and measures the public should take to avoid contracting the virus. Missing from the discussions were the disproportionate effects the outbreak has on women in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Why should there be a special focus on women, some might ask? It is fundamentally important to think about all the interconnections and knock on effects for the region-and particularly for women! The much needed discussion entails analysis of several situations, facts, including the invisible and undervalued realm of the care economy and the realities of the lives of female headed households. Read more….