The Gendered Experience of Close to Community Providers during COVID-19 Response in Fragile Settings: A Multi-Country Analysis


Many countries, and particularly those including fragile contexts, have a shortage of formal health workers and are increasingly looking to close-to-community (CTC) providers to fill the gap. The experiences of CTC providers are shaped by context-embedded gender roles and relations. This qualitative research study in Lebanon, Nepal, Myanmar and Sierra Leone explored the gendered experiences of CTC providers during the COVID-19 pandemic in fragile settings. We used document review, in-depth interviews or focus group discussions with CTC providers, and key informant interviews with local stakeholders to generate in-depth and contextual information. The COVID-19-associated lockdowns and school closures brought additional stresses, with a gendered division of labour acutely felt by women CTC providers. Their work is poorly or not remunerated and is seen as risky. CTC providers are embedded within their communities with a strong willingness to serve. However, they experienced fractures in community trust and were sometimes viewed as a COVID-19 risk. During COVID-19, CTC providers experienced additional responsibilities on top of their routine work and family commitments, shaped by gender, and were not always receiving the support required. Understanding their experience through a gender lens is critical to developing equitable and inclusive approaches to support the COVID-19 response and future crises.

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