Pandemics

Health crises often have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, who take on a disproportionate share of the care of ill relatives and, when resources are scarce, are often the first to ‘go without’ nutritious food or medication. These factors affect their risk of school / work drop-out and increase poor health, morbidity and death.

Moreover, health crises can negatively affect the ability of women to obtain secure livelihoods. For example, new diseases could decimate livestock, disproportionately affecting women, given they make up 45-80 percent of the food-producing workforce in developing countries.

Equally, health crises are likely to reduce financial access for women, who are likely to suffer disproportionately from curtailed lending and lower risk appetites associated with the mass of non-performing loans (NPLs) that health crises can create (e.g. in Liberia, uncertain economic prospects associated with the Ebola epidemic led to mass withdrawals and an increase in NPls from 14.5 percent to 19.2 percent, leading private credit growth rates to fall rapidly from c.20 percent to 0 percent).

Globally, women are more vulnerable to losing their jobs during health crises because they work in sectors more likely to be negatively affected by pandemic-related disruptions. Citigroup analysis estimates that $1 trillion could be lost from global growth as female workers fall outside the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Opportunity
low

Opportunity to invest in innovative models that build resilience.

Risk
medium

Risk of epidemics affecting women’s health and livelihoods.

Opportunity
low
Risk
medium

Health crises can cause economic shocks and create a risk of mass non-performing loans (NPLs), reducing the willingness of financial service providers to lend to higher risk individuals. For example, in Libera, uncertain economic prospects associated with the Ebola epidemic led to mass withdrawals and an increase in NPLs from 14.5 percent to 19.2 percent, leading private credit growth rates to fall rapidly from c.20 percent to 0 percent. This has a higher impact on women due to their already lower access to credit.

Gender-smart investors can support investees to develop an integrated approach to build greater resilience among at-risk communities, particularly women, by:

  • Offering value-added services to women (and men) enabling them to diversify their livelihoods and invest in increasing the efficiency and improving reliability of their current resources (e.g. agri-insurance products).
  • Improving consumer awareness and trust in financial institutions (e.g. community-based interventions).
  • Working with regulators and other stakeholders to strengthen and lower the cost of infrastructure (for example, network coverage for health services and digital financial services).
  • Providing non-financial services to support resilience-building for women-owned and led businesses (for example networking opportunities, training and awareness).

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Opportunity
low
Risk
medium

Women are over-represented in low-skilled, low-paid and informal jobs in sectors such as manufacturing. This means they face a higher risk of job and income insecurity during pandemics such as COVID-19.

Gender-smart investors can support investees affected by pandemics so they can support their employees and protect jobs:

  • Develop new business models to aim at the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and/or other medical and paramedical equipment and materials needed during pandemics (for example, re-skilling women in the garment sector to produce PPE equipment).
  • Help businesses design and supply PPE suitable for women.
  • Help businesses work through gender-sensitive job protection plans (see CDC job protection guidance online).
  • Support return to work policies, including occupational health and safety measures for female workers (see CDC Return to Work Guidance online).

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Opportunity
low
Risk
medium

Women are often primary caregivers for the sick. Girls will often drop out of school to care for ill relatives. This can affect their schools and university attendance levels and their ability to continue education. In times of pandemics, shifts to education technology (edtech) and mobile learning (m-education) solutions need to be accompanied by an assessment of women and girls’ continued access to internet and digital equipment.

Gender-smart investors can support investees to invest in m-eduation technologies that, because of their high levels of accessibility, can meet the needs of those at risk in the short and medium term. Support can be provided to help investees:

  • Develop the high-level business case for entering the edtech and m-education markets.
  • Provide women and girls with the digital skills and equipment they need to continue accessing education, and advise on flexibility to enable them to continue education work despite increased care pressure in times of pandemics.
  • Identify local partners with the capacity and capability to manage and distribute digital content to large numbers of people in a targeted manner.
  • Work with regulators, governments and other stakeholders to innovate to strengthen and lower the cost of mobile infrastructure (for example, mobile phones, data, coverage, payments, etc).

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Opportunity
high
Risk
medium

Studies show that infectious disease often affects one gender more than the other (e.g. across Guinea, Libera and Sierra Leone collectively, women comprised 55-60 percent of deaths associated with Ebola outbreaks). This is driven by the fact that women are often primary caregivers for the sick and continue to be so during epidemics.

Also, health professionals and health facility staff are the most exposed and most at risk of contracting viruses (e.g. COVID-19). According to the World Health Organisation, women represent 70 percent of health and social workers worldwide and are therefore at higher risk of virus exposure.

Ultimately, investments in the care economy (e.g. childcare, elderly care) have the potential to build more resilience and increase opportunities for women. Care infrastructures and services can be essential to enable women to keep running their businesses and stay in employment.

Gender-smart investors can support investees to enhance women’s health outcomes by:

  • Helping them to develop m-health technologies that offer women information about short and medium term self-treatment during disaster or resource-shortage situations.
  • Helping them work with governments and health sector distributors and producers to create supply-side solutions that can be rapidly rolled out to ‘at-risk’ areas (e.g. paramedic networks, drug stockpiles, etc).
  • Helping them explore investments in childcare and elderly care solutions and infrastructures.

Sources: https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/08/20/why-are-so-many-women-dying-from-Ebola/

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Opportunity
medium
Risk
medium

New diseases could decimate livestock and crops, disproportionately affecting women, who make up 45-80 percent of the food-producing workforce in developing countries.

Gender-smart investors can support investees to mitigate the risk of widespread farm failure by helping them:

  • Improve the level of consumer awareness of how livestock diseases spread, and the measures necessary to combat them.
  • Work with agricultural input providers, buyers, and other supply chain actors to provide farmers with live stock insurance services and diversified income sources (e.g. through multi-cropping).
  • Work with regulators to ensure appropriate plans and measures are in place in the event of a disease outbreak (e.g. stockpiles of antibiotics, restricted movement of livestock, etc).

Sources: https://psmag.com/news/climate-change-impacts-women

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Opportunity
low
Risk
medium

The population of women concentrated in rural locations and with lower income levels, as well as restrictions around mobility may disproportionately limit their ability to use or access healthcare infrastructure, hospitals, and roads taking them to hospitals.

Gender-smart investors can support investees to improve the infrastructure that provides access to health services by helping them work with governments and health sector distributors and producers to improve infrastructure and create supply-side solutions that can be rapidly rolled out to ‘at risk’ areas (e.g. air paramedic services, local health clinics, etc).

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