While it is clear that both men and women suffer in poverty, gender discrimination means that women often have far fewer resources to cope. They are likely to be the last to eat, are routinely trapped in time-consuming, unpaid domestic tasks and are the ones least likely to access healthcare (UN Women).
Women in low- and middle-income countries are more likely to face debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as maternal mortality, female genital cutting, HIV/AIDs and cervical cancer. In complex and protracted emergencies, women are at the eye of the storm. Conflict and political instability lead to threat and displacement of communities. Women, often occupying the central position in a family, lead the way in the effort to hold together shattered lives and find solutions.
With our partners, we are helping to support women’s health in 35 countries globally.
One of these is the Mukwege Foundation, which manages the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, which has particular expertise in treating survivors of gender-based violence. One patient, Antoinette,* came in with a severe urinary tract infection. “I came without means to pay for my care [and] had lost hope,” she said. “I no longer believed in my recovery. I was waiting for death at home, but received information that Panzi hospital was providing free treatment. I did not believe it ... but soon realised it was true.” Having received antibiotics and painkillers, Antoinette added: “My health is now stable. I feel like I just experienced a miracle.”
Women who survive gender-based violence may have sexual and reproductive health problems including gonorrhoea and chlamydia. We are sending medicines and supplies to treat these, along with medications for post-partum haemorrhage (a common cause of maternal death), including iron supplements.
Another of our partners, Life for African Mothers (LFAM) works with women such as Angelique,* who had a major haemorrhage following the delivery of her baby. The tablets provided by IHP helped to stabilise her condition, and Angelique’s life was saved. For her children, this intervention will mean everything. Angela Gorman OBE, founder of LFAM, explains: “If a mother dies in or after childbirth and has children under the age of five, the chances of those children dying multiply tenfold. A mother is the source of nurturing and nutrition: she makes sure vaccinations are given and nets are over the beds. If the mother dies, the chances are that her children will be taken out of school with girls much more likely to be taken out to care for their families.
It is clear that more needs to be done to enable better access to healthcare for women around the world. The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) five, specifically seeks to achieve gender equality for women and girls, with health improvements a key indicator in its success. We support the SDGs, and stand with our partners to tackle and treat the health issues affecting women globally.