Mainstreaming gender in health-risk communication is necessary – WAHO 

Dr Aissi Melchoir

Dr Aissi Melchoir, the Director General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), has urged health institutions in the West African sub-region to mainstream gender in health and risk communication to avert gender inequality.

He said men and women had varying approaches to risk and did not have the same access to communication to form perceptions of disease and infection responses.

Dr Melchoir was speaking at the Regional Workshop to Consider Gender Mainstreaming on Risk Communication and Community Involvement in Accra on Wednesday.

According to the World Health Organization, risk communication is the instantaneous sharing of

knowledge, suggestions, and viewpoints between authorities and those who are in danger of losing their lives, their health, or their social, economic, or cultural well-being.

Mainstreaming of gender in risk communication and community involvement (RCCE) forms part of a five-year strategy to improve the communication preparedness of communities for disease outbreaks and pandemics in West Africa.

He said health institutions in the sub-region must include gender in their communication regarding diseases, infections, and pandemic responses.

“Men and women do not behave in the same way in the face of risks, nor do they have the same access to, or use of communication channels and they do not have the same perception of risk, do not have the same health practices,” he said.

The Director General said they also did not adopt the same preparedness measures, hence, the countries must mainstream gender to improve their pandemic responses.

Dr Dacosta Aboagye, the Director of Health Promotion and Chairperson of ECOWAS RCCE Strategy, told the GNA that risk communication was essential in managing future pandemics in the region.

He said the relevance of mainstreaming gender in West Africa’s pandemic responses, indicating that they needed to include various groups, especially targeting gender-based issues.

“We need to strategically position gender within our strategic document and make sure that we are not only having them in the document but also look at ways of empowerment, since vulnerable groups are very important in the discourse of gender,” he said.

He urged health institutions in the sub-region to explore how best they could effectively implement the RCCE strategy for pandemic response.

Dr. Olayinka Umar-Farouk, Deputy Project Director, RCCE, and a facilitator said risk communication was not well understood in the sub-region.

She said risk communication must be a continuous process in the sub-region to raise awareness about pandemic responses.

The participants of the workshop included health professionals and technocrats from various countries within the West Africa sub-region.

The three-day workshop is aimed at helping to build regional capacity to take gender-based issues into account in risk communication.

They will also analyze gender mainstreaming initiatives and challenges in the ECOWAS region.

Source: GNA

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