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COVID-19 Poses Risk on Female Health Workers

By Fatou Dahaba
The COVID-19 outbreak hit the world with unprecedented consequences on global health and economies, including health workers in The Gambia who faces risk of getting COVID.
Female health care workers are most at risk of experiencing psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research.
Approximately 70% of the global health-care workforce is made up of women, according to analysis featuring 104 countries conducted by the World Health Organisation, reaching 90% in Hubei province.
A first gap sticks out: most of the health-care heroes that tackled COVID-19 in the frontline were women, although they represent only 30% of leaders in Medicine and Science and authors of academic journal submissions on COVID-19.
The Gambia has seen a rapid rise in coronavirus cases recently, and its health sector is crumbling under the weight of the deadly virus.
The Gambia’s female nurses from different hospitals have spoken about the stress, anxiety and depression they face as they continue serving their duties as nurses.
Binta Jallow, a nurse at Bundung Maternal and Child Health Hospital, said as a nurse in the health facility, she is at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
“When I close from work and go home to mingle with my family especially my husband and my child, and I think about that the fact that I could be a source of infection for them, it really traumatises me.”
She added that the anxiety about patients, the possibility of infecting family members and the financial impact of the pandemic is still being felt by many nurses. “COVID-19 has affected my mental and physical health,” she said.
Due to staff shortages, she continued to deal with an intense workload of acute care patients because nursing required both the human and physical resources necessary to carry out the nursing activity.
Fatou Bintou Jarju a nurse at Fajikunda health center said she is financially bankrupt since the pandemic began as she withdrew all her savings to support her family with feeding. “I was really depressed and didn’t know what to do because on one know when we shall get rid of COVID-19. I contracted the virus and I was scared of not infecting my family because I was asymptomatic and didn’t realize it early so the stress on me was too much .”
She said there we’re not enough Personal Protective Equipment(PPEs) to protect herself while she was exposed to patients.
Fatou Bintou called for the need for effective counseling especially for female nurses who are at the Frontline to fight against the deadly virus.
A survey conducted in 13 countries in Africa revealed that 20% of healthcare workers reported daily have depression symptoms during the pandemic, compared to 2% prior to the pandemic.
According to research, the consistent evidence indicated that being a female nurse, experiencing stigma and having contact or risk of contact with infected patients were the biggest risk factors for psychological distress among health care workers.
Omar Sey former minister of health said in order to protect female nurses from contractions of the virus and stress, the provision of adequate Personal Protection Equipment, Effective Counseling and Psychosocial Support, Motivation to work should really be a priority of the government.
Minister Sey added that the government should ensure there is a coordinated plan following consultation with all stakeholders and ensure cooperation and effective communication.
For the government to address the nursing profession he said the country needs “Well defined career structure, encourage female nurses to be selected from their communities, trained, employed and posted back to their communities.”
The former health boss said the approach to address the Covid-19 pandemic there should be prevention measures by public health personnel mostly with support from other cadres doing their professional work in a collective manner guided by ONE Operational Plan.
On July 21, the Gambia Association of Nurses and Midwives issued a statement saying its members are working without adequate protection.
“The rate at which our nurses are testing positive for COVID-19 at EFSTH is skyrocketing,” they said.
“The National Association of Gambia Nurses and Midwives wants nurses to be supplied with adequate and appropriate PPE,” it added, referring to personal protective equipment.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country stood at 9, 715 with 322 deaths and 9, 315recoveries, according to the latest Health Ministry data released.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, health institutions are the high-risk workplaces, where nurses are more likely to be exposed. Nurses become more stressed as they worried more about their family members highly due to the highly infectious nature of COVID- 19.
All health-care workers should be protected against the pandemic, leaving no one behind. Female health-care workers need more protection beyond the mask.
This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through its Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against COVID-19 in partnership with Mai-Media and Daily News.

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