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General News of Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Source: GNA

Foreign Minister reiterates need to address impact of coronavirus on women

Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has reiterated the need to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on women and girls.

She noted that responses of various governments to the pandemic had unintended negative consequences on many people especially, women in developing countries and must be addressed.

The Minister said in some cases, women lost their means of income, particularly self-employed artisanal workers, cross border and petty traders; adding that "this is inadvertent, putting untold stress and hardship on households".

Madam Ayorkor Botchwey said this in her address during the Israel Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) Women Leaders E-Conference on the Social and Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Women and Girls.

"It is, therefore, important for Governments to continue to build the resilience of their people, institutions and systems to withstand challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic," she added.

"It is even more critical to do so for the underprivileged in our societies, who usually feel the burden of disasters such as these."

The Conference, on the theme, “Building Resilience through Cooperation and Partnerships”, is aimed at assessing the social and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and girls.

Regarding Ghana’s Experience in Handling the Pandemic, the Minister said issues of women and girls remained critical to Government, and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and that the Ministry was partnering other institutions to provide bi-monthly cash grants for the vulnerable under the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme.

She said her outfit was also distributing hand sanitizers and other products to female head porters and identified vulnerable groups, and providing hot meals to the needy.

Madam Botchwey said the Government was also absorbing the full cost of utilities of low-income consumers during this pandemic.

She said within the ECOWAS region, member states were collaborating in the fighting the pandemic and that regional leaders in April 2020, held a virtual extraordinary summit on the COVID-19 pandemic, during which they agreed on measures to be taken to address the crisis.

The Minister noted that at that meeting, they instructed the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) to continue its efforts of regional coordination, collaboration and communication, particularly through the strengthening of networks of national public health institutes and laboratories.

Madam Botchwey said in addition to training health workers of member states, WAHO was providing critical medical equipment to member states in the form of surgical masks, diagnostic test kits, ventilators and ventilator trolleys, and sanitizers.

"At the Continental level, the African Union, recognizing the importance of cooperation and partnership, held a virtual session of Heads of State and Government and pledged an amount of $4.5 million towards strengthening the capacity of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the fight against the virus within the continent," she said.

"The member states ... agreed to establish the African Covid-19 Fund to which member states initially contributed $12.5 million as seed funding," the Minister added.

She said, however, as various countries battled with the effect of the pandemic and tried to identify measures of curbing its impact on citizens, the partnerships and collaborations could not be limited to only the national and regional levels.

Madam Botchwey said the global community aimed to develop a vaccine against the virus; adding that, individual countries and relevant international organisations had, therefore, stepped up their research capabilities with the view to coming up with vaccines.

She said collaboration at that level was just as critical as collaboration at the national and regional levels “if we are to avoid duplication of efforts whilst ensuring speed and efficiency by our research institutions.”

The Minister said partnerships and cooperation at all levels must, therefore, focus on: "The development of vaccines and cure for the virus; and accessibility of the vaccines by all; Identifying and supporting initiatives undertaken by developing countries to support vulnerable groups, such as women and children, during the pandemic."

She said the focus must also be placed on, "The accessibility of financial packages and credit facilities for developing countries to help rejuvenate their economies; and investments in critical sectors, such as science and technology and support for basic and applied research to strengthen the capacities of national and international institutions to deal with future epidemics."

Madam Botchwey said the COVID 19 pandemic had shaken the core of human existence and that, "Many countries have found themselves running after the pandemic instead of having a strategy to face it head-on".

"For me, therefore, building resilience through partnerships and cooperation during this COVID-19 pandemic must happen at different levels: Community, National, Regional, Continental, Global levels," she said.

"At all these levels, it is important for Governments to be clear about what they want to achieve, and to put in place the right strategies to achieve them, bearing in mind the need to protect the poor and vulnerable."

Madam Botchwey said the Government remained committed to working with the rest of world to end the pandemic and reduce its impact on the vulnerable in society.

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