Africa: Women and girls bear burden of caregiving


Most societies in Africa rely on women and girls to be voluntary caregivers for relatives when they are sick, as well as occupational caregivers for the community.

According to the Southern African Regional Poverty Network, in the context of HIV, caregiving roles are typically divided along gender lines. Women take on tasks such as cooking, feeding the patient, bathing and providing nursing care. Men tend to do tasks such as transporting patients to hospital, lifting them, and providing financial and material support.

However, when a report took place speaking to patients and carers at five hospitals and health centres in Katakwi, Soroti, Ngora, Serere and Ongiino, it seems the burden of caring for the sick falls more heavily on women and girls.
The Southern African Regional Poverty Network argues that the medical infrastructure in Uganda lacks the capacity to provide comprehensive nursing care. As a result, relatives have to stay with patients when they are admitted into hospital to provide nursing care.

"I find that most of the time, I am taking care of the patient. I cannot sit with my friends like I used to," said Perpetua Apolot from Omodoi sub-county in Katakwi District. Apolot is currently taking care of her sister in Katakwi Health Centre1V, who is bedridden as a result of HIV.

There is an urgent need particularly for the Ugandan government to provide better support around care giving in families of people affected by long-term illness such as HIV and AIDS. The rights of children must not be compromised by caregiving roles. They must be protected from potential abuse and guaranteed their right to an education.

Home-based care programmes run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations provide alternative care giving. If delivered well, these can reduce the care burden on full-time caregivers.