Female leaders from the Sub-Saharan Africa region on Wednesday urged governments to address growing inequalities in health care services that have worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during a virtual health summit, the African female leaders and advocates said that robust policy and legislative interventions were required to address high disease burden affecting women and girls in the continent.
Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia said that COVID-19 exposed gender inequalities in healthcare provision in Africa amid disruption of hospital deliveries and provision of family planning services.
“We need to confront the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women’s health across Africa especially their inability to access quality contraceptives,” said Geingos.
“The pandemic has reinforced the need to bridge the gender gap during formulation of health policies in the continent,” she added.
Dozens of African female leaders, policymakers and campaigners participated in the virtual Women Leaders in Global Health Conference that was convened by international advocacy group, WomenLift Health.
The three-day virtual summit devoted attention to Africa where patriarchy combined with poverty, civil strife and policy gaps have worsened gender disparities in provision of health care services.
Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa at the World Health Organization (WHO) said that addressing gender inequalities is key to hastening pandemic recovery in the continent.
“The critical role of women in the realization of universal access to healthcare services in this continent was reaffirmed during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Moeti.
“It is the female healthcare workers who have been on the frontline of helping communities cope with the pandemic by providing care to the sick and raising awareness on prevention measures,” she added.
Moeti said that policy reforms, capacity building and public awareness are key to reducing gender disparities in Africa’s healthcare sector that is reeling from negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wilhelmina Jallah, minister for health of Liberia said that enactment of gender-sensitive health policies combined with adequate investment in safe motherhood is key to reducing maternal mortality in Africa during the pandemic era.