Published 15 Mar 2020

Why include a protection, gender, and inclusion lens in risk communication and community engagement?

Women, the elderly, adolescents, youth, and children, persons with disabilities, indigenous populations, refugees, migrants, and minorities experience the highest degree of socio-economic marginalization. Marginalized people become even more vulnerable in emergencies.

This is due to factors such as their lack of access to effective surveillance and early-warning systems, and health services. The COVID-19 outbreak is predicted to have significant impacts on various sectors.

The populations most at risk are those that:

• depend heavily on the informal economy;
• occupy areas prone to shocks;
• have inadequate access to social services or political influence;
• have limited capacities and opportunities to cope and adapt and;
• limited or no access to technologies.

By understanding these issues, we can support the capacity of vulnerable populations in emergencies. We can give them priority assistance, and engage them in decision-making processes for response, recovery, preparedness, and risk reduction.

What have we learned about protection, gender, inclusion, and risk communication and community engagement in other epidemics?

Previous epidemics illustrate the value of engaging with women when communicating about risks:

• Women are a disproportionate part of the health workforce.
• As primary caregivers to children, the elderly, and the ill, we must recognize and engage women in risk communication and community engagement.
• When we don’t recognize gendered dynamics during outbreaks, we limit the effectiveness of risk communication efforts.
• Women’s access to information on outbreaks and available services are severely constrained when community engagement teams are dominated by men.
• Tailoring community engagement interventions for gender, language, and local culture improves communities’ uptake with interventions.UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian AffairsTo learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit

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