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Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely.

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Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda, women
Congolese health workers register people and take their temperatures before they are vaccinated against Ebola in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the throes of its worst-ever Ebola outbreak, with more than 420 cases in the country’s volatile east, and a mortality rate of just under 60 percent. But this outbreak — the nation’s tenth known Ebola epidemic — is unusual because more than 60 percent of patients are women.

Among them is Baby Benedicte. Her short life has already been unimaginably difficult.

At one month old, she is underweight, at 2.9 kilograms. And she is alone. Her mother had Ebola, and died giving birth to her. She’s spent the last three weeks of her life in a plastic isolation cube, cut off from most human contact. She developed a fever at eight days old and was transferred to this hospital in Beni, a town of some half-million people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 400 people have been diagnosed with Ebola here since the beginning of August, and more than half of them have died in a nation the size of Western Europe that struggles with insecurity and a lack of the most basic infrastructure and services. That makes this the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, after the hemorrhagic fever killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

This is 10th outbreak to strike the vast country since 1976, when Ebola was first identified in Congo. And this particular outbreak is further complicated by a simmering civil conflict that has plagued this region for more than two decades.

Guido Cornale, UNICEF’s coordinator in the region, says the scope of this outbreak is clear.

“It has become the worst outbreak in Congo, this is not a mystery,” he said.

What is mysterious, however, is the demographics of this outbreak. This time, more than 60 percent of cases are women, says the government’s regional health coordinator, Ndjoloko Tambwe Bathe.

“All the analyses show that this epidemic is feminized. Figures like this are alarming. It’s true that the female cases are more numerous than the male cases,” he said.

Congo, Uganda, ebola, Women
Health workers walk with a boy suspected of having been infected with the Ebola virus, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, near Congo’s border with Uganda. VOA

Bathe declined to predict when the outbreak might end, though international officials have said it may last another six months. Epidemiologists are still studying why this epidemic is so skewed toward women and children, Cornale said.

“So now we can only guess. And one of the guesses is that woman are the caretakers of sick people at home. So if a family member got sick, who is taking care of him or her? Normally, a woman,” he said.

Or a nurse. Many of those affected are health workers, who are on the front line of battling this epidemic. Nurse Guilaine Mulindwa Masika, spent 16 days in care after a patient transmitted the virus to her. She says it was the fight of her life.

“The pain was enormous, the pain was constant,” she said. “The headache, the diarrhea, the vomiting, and the weakness — it was very, very bad.”

Congo, Ebola, Women
Marie-Roseline Darnycka Belizaire, World Health Organization (WHO) Epidemiology Team Lead, talks to women as part of Ebola contact tracing, in Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely. Masika and her cured colleagues face weeks of leave from work to ensure the risk of infection is gone. In the main hospital in the city of Beni, families who have recovered live together in a large white tent, kept four meters from human contact by a bright orange plastic cordon. They yell hello at their caretakers, who must don protective gear if they want to get any closer.

And for Baby Benedicte, who is tended to constantly by a nurse covered head to toe in protective gear, the future is uncertain. Medical workers aren’t entirely sure where her father is, or if he is going to come for her.

Also Read: Congo Start Trials For Drugs Against Ebola

She sleeps most of the day, the nurse says, untroubled by the goings-on around her. Meanwhile, the death toll rises. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s How Porn Ruins Women’s Intimate Experiences with Men

The researchers reported that while most women in the study sample had seen pornography, fewer than half used it for masturbation

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Some people linked 'porn ban' to the right-wing politics of BJP. Wikimedia Commons
Some people linked 'porn ban' to the right-wing politics of BJP. Wikimedia Commons

Consuming porn instigates body-related insecurities in women that might not only reduce their interest in engaging in intimate activities with their partners but also negatively affect their arousal, a study suggests.

Researchers have explored the association between pornography and intimate partner experiences among heterosexual women and revealed that there was a complex relationship between the two.

Published in the Journal of Women’s Health, the study reveals that thinking of pornographic material during intimate experiences with a heterosexual partner among women minght give rise to insecurities about appearances and thus reduces the enjoyment of the intimate acts.

For the findings, the research team surveyed 706 heterosexual women aged 18-29 in the US, associating the consumption of pornography with sexual preferences, experiences and concerns.

Photo credit: twitter.com

The researchers reported that while most women in the study sample had seen pornography, fewer than half used it for masturbation.

Those women who used it at higher rates for masturbation tended to rely more on pornographic scripts during sex to achieve and maintain arousal and were more likely to prefer pornography to sex with a partner.

Also Read- Unintended Consequences if You Regulate us for The Sake of it: Google CEO Sundar Pichai

“The researchers demonstrate a clear difference between the role of pornography in sexual experiences of women compared to men,” said Susan G Kornstein from Virginia Commonwealth University in the US.

“Whereas the relationship tends to be more direct in young heterosexual men and just viewing pornographic material is associated with reduced sexual intimacy and satisfaction, women make the material part of their personal sexual experience and carry the pornographic script into their intimate partner experiences,” Kornstein said. (IANS)