A discussion on Twitter has made me pursue the question if women and men have a different risk of contracting Ebola. Already previously I had heard various theories. One said, for example, that women in West Africa have traditionally the role of being the care-giver within the family.
— Babatunde Osotimehin (@BabatundeUNFPA) 5. Januar 2015
A Sierra Leonean colleague told me that if she herself would become sick, she has to rely on the mother of her husband. Her husband would not even participate in the care. This seems to indicate that women have to bear a greater risk. Additionally children are also associated usually stronger with mothers. If a child gets Ebola the mother is exposed to a high risk. The UN, for example, already integrated a gender-sensitive approach in their fight against Ebola.
But what do statistics say? Ugochi Daniels from UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) said on Ebola Deeply, that the mortality rate of pregnant women suffering from Ebola is extremely high: 90%.
This means that a pregnant woman suffering from Ebola is practically sentenced to death together with her unborn child. Overall the rate is at 70%.
The WHO Ebola response team, however, has in the last published report found no evidence that women do have a lesser survival rate than men. 51% of confirmed and probable cases of Ebola were male, 52% of the fatal cases were male, and 49% of the convalescent cases. Thus, the statistics show: Ebola is encouragingly gender-balanced.
I do not want to say that therefore possibly special needs of women should be ignored in the Ebola-Response. Pregnant women and mothers should get special attention, in my view, because their survival is directly linked with the life of two people. Nevertheless, the figures show that we have to look exactly on the cases if we want to fight Ebola. We should not act on assumptions even if it sounds tempting for a NGO to focus on the supposedly vulnerable group of the female half of the population.
This article is a translation of Julias original article in German language.