For only the third time in it's history, the UN Security Council has convened an emergency meeting on a health issue, on Thursday, 18 September 2014. Member States will discuss a plan of action to address the unprecedented escalation of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and plan immediate international action to address the need for qualified medical personnel, equipment and related assistance to the region, so this does not become a global public health crisis. In this discussion, it is critical to recognise that the Ebola virus disease (EVD) has a clear gender dimension that must be incorporated in interventions to ensure that the spread of this deadly disease is halted.
Women across the subregion, which is still recovering from decades of conflict, realise that Ebola can only be defeated when they take responsibility for their own health. They are taking the initiative through organised collective action to implement preventive measures at community and national levels, including leading sensitisation campaigns, installing and operating hand washing facilities, and providing economic assistance to women in their neighbourhoods and communities. These efforts need to be recognised, and supported in line with international commitments in UNSC Res 1325 that advocate that needs and perspectives of women be taken into account in post-conflict reconstruction and development activities. The spirit of 1325 also reminds us that equality and equity must be at the forefront in resource distribution and that all countries in affected regions should have equal consideration and access to allocated resources.
While we appreciate the increased global attention to halting the spread of this devastating disease, we are concerned about the absence of a gendered approach, given that Ebola disproportionately impacts women. We note that:
In view of the above, the women of the Mano River Union countries most deeply affected by the Ebola outbreak call on the UN Security Council to implement sustainable, culturally sensitive interventions which recognise and respect the dignity of the local populace, and involve the participation of local communities and addresses the deep rooted causes of the epidemic. These include:
While we appreciate the level of organisation and capacity inherent in a militarised approach, at the same time, we raise concerns about the hyper-masculine structure of the military which can have potential negative implications when sensitivity to gender issues are not prioritised in program interventions. For example, this can result in increased susceptibility of women to sexual violence. For such interventions to succeed requires the following: