COVID-19 is the world’s largest global humanitarian crisis. Without urgent international action to support vulnerable countries to respond to the pandemic, up to 70 million additional people could be pushed into extreme poverty. Women and girls are amongst the most impacted. An estimated one billion women workers in low paid and precarious employment have been left jobless in this crisis. Women make up the majority of frontline health workers responding to the pandemic, and their unpaid work has magnified due to school and childcare closures and the need to care for sick family and community members. ActionAid research has also shown an alarming spike in violence against women in all countries undertaking lockdown measures.
Low-income countries urgently need additional resources to expand healthcare and increase funding for social protection and critical public services, including support services for women experiencing violence. Australia has an opportunity to show international leadership, by committing to an immediate increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the 2020-2021 budget. There are also key opportunities to advance the Australian Government’s commitment to gender equality globally, and to respond to the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls, through targeted policies and investment.