Johannesburg - African countries have some of the highest levels of physical and sexual violence against women in the world.
The news follows a report in collaboration between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the SA Medical Research Council (MRC).
The report said about 45.6% of women in Africa experienced physical and sexual violence, compared to 35% globally.
It revealed that globally, women who experienced violence with their intimate or non-partners were twice as likely to be depressed, have alcohol related problems, and have HIV and a sexually transmitted diseases.
Other health problems linked to violence were unwanted pregnancies, abortion and low birth-weight babies.
The report found that 38% of women killed globally were murdered by their intimate partners.
MRC president Professor Salim Abdool Karim said: "the results are deeply concerning and force each of us to sit up and take notice."
"The evidence is clear: it is now time to act decisively against this ‘plague' in South Africa and the world," he said.
New WHO policy guidelines would be put in place to improve health workers' knowledge in cases of sexual and other forms of violence, to help women who might be at risk of partner violence.
An effort would also be made to empower women and girls economically and through education, said MRC gender and health deputy unit director Dr Naeemah Abrahams.