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Ebola's devastating impact on girls and women

The largest Ebola outbreak in history is impacting lives across West Africa. Plan is working on the ground to stop the spread of this disease in affected countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — by supporting community-awareness campaigns, training health workers, establishing hand-washing stations in public areas, and providing families with food and water.

A woman washing clothes outside.

The cultural norm of female caregivers puts women and girls at a higher risk of Ebola.

According to the World Health Organization, Ebola has claimed over 10,000 lives, and reports show women and girls are disproportionately affected.

Ebola: A threat to women and girls

Women and girls are on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis. As a result of the cultural norm in many parts of Africa, grandmothers, mothers, and daughters bear the burden of tending to sick and dying relatives. Since the disease is transmitted through contact with contaminated bodily fluids, caring for a loved one with Ebola puts women and girls at a much higher risk.

Across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, women account for up to 60% of those who have died. In Liberia alone, health officials report that 75% of Ebola cases are women.

Ebola puts pregnant women at risk

Pregnant woman sitting on a chair.

Pregnant women are unable to access health services.

In many parts of West Africa, the healthcare systems are extremely delicate with limited resources, and a shortage of doctors and nurses. As a result, the Ebola epidemic has made accessing basic medical services next to impossible.

This means pregnant women in some of the most affected areas are unable to access the care they need. It’s predicted that 1 in 7 pregnant women is at risk of death in Ebola-affected countries.

“Women who are pregnant are being denied healthcare services. Some of them have died because of this. Some lost the child they were bearing,” shared Varnetta Johnson Freeman, a Liberian activist raising awareness about Ebola’s impact on women.

Orphaned by Ebola – girls become mothers

Teenage girl and younger brother look directly into the camera.

Siah, 16, and her younger brother, John, lost their parents to Ebola.

Thousands of children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents to Ebola this year. As a result, teenage girls are stepping into the parental role for their younger siblings.

“Girls are now missing out on an education, and will essentially become mothers by default. They will end up as teenage mothers even though they started out on a path to a better future,” explained Koala Oumarou, Country Director of Plan Liberia.

In Liberia, 16-year old Siah has become a mother to her younger siblings, taking responsibility for her 5-year-old brother John, and her 8-year-old sister Rebecca.

“I can’t imagine how I will take care of the children without any help,” said Siah.

Together, we can stop the spread of Ebola

As Ebola awareness and education campaigns reach more and more people, containing the spread of the disease and preventing further deaths is possible. Help Plan fight this outbreak, so that girls can receive the support they need, while pregnant women and all patients can access the medical care they require.

Donate to plans' emergency fund today