Sexual and Reproductive Health in Epidemics: What can we do to protect women’s and girls’ health services in times of crisis?
During public health crises, such as the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014 - 2016, essential women’s reproductive health services can be deprioritised, while the health service focuses on halting transmission of the infectious disease. This can result in entirely preventable morbidity and mortality, and can traumatise families and health workers.
In this interactive panel discussion, four thought leaders in the field of women’s reproductive health will discuss:
• Why essential reproductive health services are so often neglected in crises
• The impact this has on women, children, health workers and communities
• What can be done by practitioners, policymakers, researchers and advocates to ensure that services are not only maintained in future crises, but expanded where needed.
Is the programme specialist for female genital mutilation with UNFPA in Dakar, Senegal. Her role involves coordinating the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to End FGM in eight countries in West and Central Africa, and supporting the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative for Africa Regional Programme. Agnes is passionate about African women’s health and rights, particularly those of adolescent girls. She worked with women and young people in Sierra Leone for many years, ensuring they have access to sexual reproductive health (SRH) information and services, and are empowered to make choices that are right for them. Agnes is a 2013 graduate of Connecticut College and completed her Master’s at LSHTM in 2018.
Dr Benjamin Black
Is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and a specialist advisor to Médecins Sans Frontières. His focus on sexual, reproductive and maternal healthcare for populations in times of crisis has taken him to many countries working with international aid organisation, UN bodies and governments. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic he provided frontline healthcare to pregnant women and developed international guidelines. Benjamin was a member of the expert panel for the inquiry into racial injustice in UK maternity care. His first book, Belly Woman: Birth, Blood & Ebola; The Untold Story is out now. (in-person panellist)
Sr Betty Sam
Is a nurse midwife with over 20 years’ experience working in Sierra Leone. She has been key in providing technical support in various aspects of improving midwifery services in the country. She has worked with a series of organisations including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, providing consultancy on maternal and sexual and productive health programmes both within Sierra Leone and at an international level through the International Confederation of Midwives. Betty works closely with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, advising on the implementation of programmes and improving reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health outcomes.
Dr Clare Wenham
Is an Associate Professor of Global Health Policy at the LSE, where she focuses on the security, governance and policies of global health. She analyses the gendered impacts of epidemic (and broader health) policies, considering the involvement of women in policymaking, and the downstream effects of gender-neutral policymaking for health emergencies on women and other marginalised groups; including on economic participation and access to sexual and reproductive health services. She has conducted empirical research on Zika and COVID-19.
Gillian McKay is a social scientist with a specialty in primary and secondary impacts of outbreaks. She is the Senior Humanitarian Health Research Advisor for Elrha’s R2HC programme, where she works to ensure the research Elrha funds meets the priority needs of the humanitarian community and is shared with the right people to make change. Gillian is in the final stages of her DrPH at the LSHTM, where she studied how communities engaged with Ebola responses in Sierra Leone and the DRC. Gillian has worked with WHO, the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and others in her 10+ years in humanitarian response