These risks are compounded by the fear of contracting

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These risks are compounded by the fear of contracting Ebola at hospitals and treatment centres, which deters women from seeking care during delivery. Many women are giving birth at home rather than at health centres. When Ebola struck Liberia in August, the proportion of births supervised by a health professional dropped from 52 to 38 percent. In Sierra Leone, the number of women giving birth in hospitals and health clinics dropped by 30 percent. Evidence from the national assessment study reveals a drastic reduction in the number of pregnant women seeking care between May and September 2014: from 164 to 31 (Bombali districts); from 333 to 26 (Kenema districts); and from 33 to 22 (Koinadugu district) (UNDP, 2014b). This therefore worsens the initial condition for rolling out and implementing the SDGs. Before the onset of the epidemic, expectant mothers in Guinea were at high risk of maternal death (724 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). With the epidemic, there has been a breakdown in health services. Of the approximately 200,000 expected pregnant women in the last quarter of 2014, nearly 40,000 may not be monitored or may not have their babies delivered by a qualified person (UNDP-RBA, 2015b). The EVD’s knock-on effects are huge. It has caused many deaths, stifled growth rates, reversed recent socio-economic gains, aggravated poverty and food insecurity, and destroyed livelihoods. Hidden in the aggregated impact is the plight of Ebola’s voiceless victims and agents of change – women (UNDP-RBA, 2015b). Beyond being physically affected by the epidemic, women have suffered reversals in economic empowerment, because of reduced economic activity related to EVD control measures that restrict the movement of people and goods. In their role as economic providers for their families, women have experienced sharper economic impacts than men. Women in the three countries are disproportionately clustered in the least productive sectors, with 90 percent employed in the informal services and agricultural sectors. 11 EVD has increased women’s vulnerability a loss of livelihoods and incomes. For instance, as of October, in Sierra Leone, 54 percent of smallholder farmers, who make up one fifth of infections, were women. The reduction in trade and the closing of borders as well as in farming activities have had a negative impact on these women, their incomes and livelihoods. Furthermore, due to the epidemic, women’s two main sources of funding have dried up. For instance, in Guinea, the tontine 12 gathering is no longer held, and microfinance institutions have substantially reduced loans to the women due to a lack of clarity about the future. According to a FAO and WFP reports (2014), the financial capital 11 See UNDP (2015) on how EVD increased women’s vulnerability to loss livelihoods and incomes in the three countries. 12 A tontine is an informal savings/credit scheme, known in most Anglophone West Africa as ‘Esusu’. Under this scheme, participants agree to contribute a predetermined amount at a given frequency. In each round of contribution, one of the participants is designated the recipient of funds from other participants. When each of the contributing participants have received the group fund once, the
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  • Fall '19
  • West Africa

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