In Afghanistan, the number of women who allegedly tested positive for the virus and died from Covid-19 is far below the number of men. According to the independent research group Global Health 50/50, men make up 53 percent of confirmed cases and 58 percent of deaths. In Afghanistan, 70 percent of cases and 74 percent of deaths are due to men – a discrepancy that experts say is most likely due to women being excluded from the health system and the public.

Afghan women face obstacles both in their own households and in the health facilities themselves, said Suraya Dalil, who was Afghan health minister from 2010 to 2014 and now leads special public health programs at the World Health Organization. “Women need someone to accompany them to the hospital,” she said, “so these decisions are often made by the men in a household, whether it is the husband or the father or the son.”

And when women come to health care facilities, they are expected to only deal with female doctors, she added. Given the small number of female doctors, this will be almost impossible.

Another explanation for the gap could be that the Afghan workforce is dominated by men. A study published by the London Center for Economic Policy Research found a positive correlation between the labor force participation of women and the mortality rate after Covid-19. In Afghanistan, women make up only around 30 percent of the workforce.

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