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George Mason University

COVID-19 Impact on Violence Against Women: WHO/George Mason Urge Governments and Healthcare Providers to Apply Lessons from Past Humanitarian Crises, Make More Resources Available

May 12, 2020   /   by Danielle Hawkins

While data are still scant, experts who have studied the impact of humanitarian crises such as conflicts and natural disasters on violence against women are already seeing an alarming increase in calls to helplines for violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic. They urge governments and health workers to apply lessons learned from such humanitarian crises to help those currently experiencing violence. 

Dr. Jhumka Gupta, an expert in intimate partner violence at the College of Health and Human Services of George Mason University is a co-author with colleagues at the World Health Organization on the editorial published May 7 in The BMJ.

“The failure to learn lessons from past epidemic outbreaks about gender-related impacts cannot be repeated,” the authors caution. “As the global health community grapples with how best to stem the spread of COVID-19, the ongoing epidemic of violence against women cannot be ignored.”

The authors define three ways COVID-19 can impact violence against women: (1) increased household stress, (2) disruption of social and protective networks, and (3) fewer opportunities for victims of violence to access health services.

The article identifies resources including guidance for strengthening health systems for those experiencing violence, protocols for working with survivors, including in a humanitarian settings, and training resources for health care providers. The use of mHealth and telehealth should also consider the safety of women experiencing violence.

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Related people: Jhumka Gupta, ScD
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