Putting Central African women at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19

Date: Friday, April 10, 2020

After installing the washing station, the technical team from the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and UN Women explains its use to women in the Bégoua district of Bangui. Photo: UN Women/Novella Nikwigize
After installing the washing station, the technical team from the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and UN Women explains its use to women in the Bégoua district of Bangui. Photo: UN Women / Novella Nikwigize

On 14 March, the Central African Republic announced its first case of COVID-19 and as of 8 April, there were 11 cases of contamination with COVID-19 including 45% women and 55% men.

The coronavirus pandemic in the Central African Republic, as elsewhere in the world, is undermining already weakened social, health, economic and political systems.

As with other epidemics, the consequences of the coronavirus, such as the closing of schools, the restriction of economic activities and small businesses and cases of new local contamination, can impact on the increase of the burden of housewives and girls related to the management of children, hygiene and prevention measures for the coronavirus in the family.

In the Central African Republic, women and girls are already living in a particularly vulnerable situation which will probably be exacerbated in the context of this pandemic. And substantive work is already underway to address the risks of ill-treatment, gender-based violence, mental health, separation from parents and especially child labor, which would increase their risk of contamination.

In the 5th district of Bangui, representatives of a local NGO follow the precautions for using and bleaching bleach for the washing stations offered by UN Women and the Ministry of Women. Photo: UN Women/Novella Nikwigize
In the 5th district of Bangui, representatives of a local NGO follow the precautions for using and bleaching bleach for the washing stations offered by UN Women and the Ministry of Women. Photo: UN Women / Novella Nikwigize

With regard to prevention, the challenges linked to the lack of sanitary facilities are hampering the progress of the work of community sensitizers such as Mrs. Marie Thérèse Damoinou, president of the Association of Missionaries for Social Works (AMOS), located in the 3rd district from the capital Bangui.

She explains that she and her team had already taken the initiative to start raising community awareness about coronavirus prevention by going door to door, but they lacked the means: "We explain to families the need to wash their hands to prevent contaminations. But without the necessary washing kits, we could only use the usual gourds commonly called "bouta" (in Sango, the local language), and with soap made locally, despite its price which is up since the start of the crisis ”.

She happily welcomed part of the first batch of 100 washing kits (bucket, soap, bleach) offered by UN Women, in collaboration with the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, the Family and Child Protection. These kits will be placed in her district, in places with a high number of women (market entry, clinics, etc.), sometimes replacing more traditional and less efficient bouta systems. The various handwashing kits have been distributed on both sides of the city to community organizations, already engaged in raising awareness within their community.

Women from the locality of the Bégoua district, in the 8th district of Bangui, came to listen to the demonstration of the best use of the washing stations distributed by UN Women and the Ministry of Women. Photo: UN Women/Novella Nikwigize
Women from the locality of the Bégoua district, in the 8th district of Bangui, came to listen to the demonstration of the best use of the washing stations distributed by UN Women and the Ministry of Women. Photo: UN Women/Novella Nikwigize

While delivering the kits alongside the UN Women Coordinator in CAR, the Minister for the Promotion of Women, Mrs. Aline Gisèle Pana called on the Central Africans to take this pandemic seriously and to start implementing the barrier measures for their protection as well as for their children. Furthermore, the Government has already taken barrier measures and is in the process of developing its National Humanitarian Response Plan at COVID-19. While the various ministerial staff are already at work to develop their sector response plans, UN Women and the United Nations Gender and Development Thematic Group organized a training workshop on the Gender and Age Marker for executives in charge of developing sector response plans to COVID-19. To support the government in its response to COVID-19, UN Women has developed an integrated response framework, ensuring the Strategic Committee chaired by the President of the Republic and the platform of community women's organizations, working as close as possible to women in Bangui and in the Provinces.

“For the fight against the coronavirus, we started with technical support for the development of the sectoral plan of the Ministry which is followed by the organization of a prevention campaign against COVID-19 involving women, and the current training. However, our doors remain wide open for future initiatives."

UN Women is thus participating in the COVID-19 prevention, response and early recovery efforts of the United Nations system and development partners.