Lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus has affected African women negatively, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional director for Africa said on Thursday.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti told a joint media briefing with WHO and World Economic Forum that stay-at-home orders have exposed women in abusive relationships to a higher risk of violence.

“African women have been immediately and disproportionately affected by lockdowns because of the type of work they are involved in,” Moeti said.

“We know that women are often primary caregivers, especially for children and dependents. They also make up 70% of the global health workforce, particularly as nurses who provide essential care in our health systems.

“We are working with governments and partners to find ways to continue to deliver essential services safely, including the provision of personal protective equipment,” she said, adding that the WHO has provided targeted virtual training to over 1,000 nurses and midwives in Africa.

She also praised the South African president for making a profound and articulated appeal to the nation to declare the situation itself (gender-based violence) another pandemic.

Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that gender-based violence is South Africa’s second pandemic.

”Over the past few weeks, no fewer than 21 women and children have been murdered. Their killers thought they could silence them. But we will not forget them and we will speak for them where they cannot,” he added.

Moeti said it is for leaders to recognize that this is happening and then make it part of the interventions that are put in place to mitigate the impact of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the violence itself.

Since the virus outbreak, according to UN Women, reports of violence against women, and particularly domestic violence, have increased as security, health, and money worries create tensions and strains accentuated by the cramped and confined living conditions of lockdown.

Many countries in the African continent, which have so far registered 267,519 virus cases including 7,197 deaths and 122,661 recoveries, imposed a strict lockdown, with restrictions on movement, and only essential services allowed to operate.

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