Article Text

Download PDFPDF

The syndemic of COVID-19 and gender-based violence in humanitarian settings: leveraging lessons from Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo
  1. Lindsay Stark1,
  2. Melissa Meinhart1,
  3. Luissa Vahedi1,
  4. Simone E Carter2,
  5. Elisabeth Roesch3,
  6. Isabel Scott Moncrieff3,
  7. Philomene Mwanze Palaku4,
  8. Flore Rossi4,
  9. Catherine Poulton3
  1. 1Brown School at Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri, USA
  2. 2Public Health Emergencies, UNICEF, New York, New York, USA
  3. 3UNICEF, New York, New York, USA
  4. 4UNICEF, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lindsay Stark; lindsaystark{at}wustl.edu

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Summary box

  • Efforts to situate gender-based violence (GBV) within the COVID-19 pandemic remain inadequate. Based on the knowledge that the public health crises of violence and infectious disease are intersecting, we use a syndemic perspective to examine their shared influence in humanitarian settings.

  • When the humanitarian community exclusively prioritises the lives saved from infectious diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19, the lives impacted by interrelated factors, such as GBV, can be overlooked.

  • This narrative leverages learnings from the 2018–2020 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to inform and strengthen ongoing responses related to GBV and COVID-19 within humanitarian settings.

  • For both Ebola and COVID-19, response efforts have overlooked the life-saving nature of GBV services. These services, including one-stop crisis centres and safe spaces, are vulnerable to cessation when health service providers attempt to prevent and control the spread of infectious disease without incorporating a gender-sensitive lens.

  • A critical opportunity to integrate women within response planning is through local women’s organisations which are already embedded in local communities.

As the gendered dimensions of COVID-19 are increasingly recognised, efforts to situate gender-based violence (GBV) within the pandemic remain inadequate. It is critical to first acknowledge that the drivers and impacts of COVID-19 and GBV do not occur in isolation; rather, they present as a syndemic—each is made more destructive by the presence of the other.1 Thus, it is not the infection of COVID-19 that increases the risk of GBV but rather the gender-insensitive systems and policies that magnify the risk.2

Based on the knowledge that the public health crises of violence and infectious disease are intersecting, we use a syndemic perspective to examine their shared influence in humanitarian settings. This brief leverages learnings from the 2018–2020 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to inform …

View Full Text

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.