A new report from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted women in the Americas, resulting in increased gender inequality in health and threatening women’s development and well-being.
The report Gender and Health Analysis: COVID-19 in the Americas, launched during a webinar to mark International Women’s Day, explores the effects of the pandemic on women and girls.
It presents findings in health, employment, and social welfare.
“This report underscores that gender inequality is an ongoing social, economic, political and health crisis, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said.
“But it also highlights where we need to work harder to create a more equitable, resilient and sustainable future,” she stressed.
During the pandemic, the role of caregiver exposed women to an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
Comprising most healthcare workers, women were on the front line caring for patients and accounted for 72% of all COVID-19 cases among healthcare professionals in the region.
“If they had been better protected from the start and with reasonable shifts, many infections could have been avoided,” Dr. Etienne said.
The physical and emotional costs of working long shifts in hospitals and the worry about COVID-19 exposure followed many female healthcare workers home. They were often also responsible for 80% of chores.
The study points to research showing that women working in healthcare are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, insomnia or burnout than their male counterparts.
During lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, women also spent more time at home, which was unsafe for many.
Calls to domestic violence hotlines shot up by 40% in some countries during these periods.
In others, they dropped dramatically, indicating that women could have faced new barriers to seeking help.
COVID-19 has also had a marked impact on women’s health. The report highlights that, while data shows women are overall less likely to develop severe disease from COVID-19 than men, they were also more likely to be diagnosed later.
And once they were diagnosed, they died earlier, suggesting that many did not receive timely, adequate care.