Dr Carissa Etienne

Jesse Ramdeo

Leave no woman behind!

That is the message from the Director of the Pan American Health Organization Dr Carissa Etienne who added that more government intervention is needed to prevent rising violence against women during COVID 19 lockdowns.

Information suggests that growing amidst the COVID- 19 crisis and the subsequent lockdown measures are domestic and gender-based violence.

During a press conference yesterday Etienne said the pandemic related stresses are worsening situations women already face.

She said, “The ongoing stay at home measures coupled with the economic strains are increasing the risk of domestic violence, for too many women, home is not a safe space.” Just last year here at home, approximately 29 women were killed in domestic violence situations.

Etienne said reduced access to services have worsened the struggles women face. “Many women have been forced to leave their jobs to care for their families, impacting both their income and well being,’’ she added.

As she noted the devastation caused by the resurgence of the pandemic in the region, Etienne said countries needed to do more to safeguard women whom she deemed critical in combating the virus.

She said, “This starts with women and girls accessing health care services especially during the crisis, this includes gender violence hotlines and sexual and reproductive health services which are essential services, by leveraging tele-health and leaning on community health workers and making health care available outside hospital settings health systems can ensure women get the care that they deserve.”

The PAHO Director also called for women to play a greater role in shaping policies aimed at rebuilding economies from the global crisis, “by employing women in the pandemic planning and placing them at the very center of the recovery, women are some of our most powerful leaders, scientists, and communicators and we need their help.”

Meanwhile, asked about the impact of the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine given reports of a lower than expected efficacy rate as well as the emergence of new variants of the virus, Etienne said while more assessment is needed people should still get vaccinated, “variants have thus far been detected in ten countries of the Americas but with low frequency, this might change in a few weeks or months but this is not strange as mutations are really very common in coronaviruses so this is why we are pleading with nationals and the general public to intensify efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.”