Women fear being asked for sex in exchange for Ebola vaccine: charityFebruary 13, 2019
Women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo fear they may be asked to perform sexual favors in exchange for receiving the Ebola vaccine and other services, according to research from several non-governmental organizations.
The International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) study, presented at the national task force meeting in Beni this month, found that gender-based violence and mistrust of health workers is on the rise since the beginning of the outbreak in August, The Guardian reported.
Not only are women in danger of sexual violence, but they are also asked to care for children and the sick, and are often blamed for spreading the disease, the charity’s research found. A participant in one of the IRC’s 30 focus groups said that women are isolated during their periods because they are accused of carrying the virus.
The deadly outbreak is the second largest in history and has already claimed more than 500 lives, including 100 children, officials said on Saturday. The vaccine is “highly, highly efficacious,” and may have prevented thousands of deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
The Ministry of Health on Thursday asked people to report anyone offering services like the Ebola vaccine, which is meant to be free, for money. The ministry told The Guardian it was aware of rumors on social media saying women working on Ebola response teams were offered jobs in exchange for sex. The ministry advised women to only meet recruiters wearing an official badge.
The ministry denied that the vaccination was discussed specifically in the focus group discussions.
Participants in focus groups “expressed concerns about women and girls being offered Ebola-related services in exchange for sexual favors,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement to The Guardian.
“More importantly, no women reported individual cases of sexual exploitation to the IRC during the focus groups. These women and girls expressed their fears and concerns about the Ebola response considering the social and security context they live in,” the statement added.
Trina Helderman, the senior health and nutrition adviser for humanitarian emergency response organization Medair, said there should be more protection for women in the region during the Ebola response.
“This region of DRC has a long history of sexual violence and exploitation of women and girls,” she said. “Though shocking, this is an issue that could have been anticipated.
“Humanitarian actors should have been more prepared to put safety measures in place to prevent this from happening.”
Source: Read Full Article