The number of women unable to access family planning, facing unintended pregnancies and gender based violence and other harmful practise has skyrocketed at the coronavirus pandemic, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
“The impact of COVID-19 will likely hamper global efforts to achieve three ‘zeros’ at the heart of our work at UNFPA – zero unmet need for contraception, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls – by 2030,” said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem on on World Population Day.
Pointing out that sexual and reproductive health care was a right and like pregnancies and childbirth, human rights don’t stop for pandemics, she said “together, let’s put the brakes on COVID-19 and safeguard the health and rights of women and girls – now!”
She said that the pandemic will cut global progress towards ending gender-based violence within this decade by at least one third. Moreover, if mobility restrictions continue for at least 6 months with major disruptions to health services, 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries may be deprived of modern contraceptives, resulting in 7 million unintended pregnancies, she added.
The UNFPA has called upon nations to pay attention to the vulnerabilities and needs of women and girls during the pandemic. They also wanted to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights and end the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence.
Natalia Kanem said that UNFPA would ensure that the supply of modern contraceptives and reproductive health commodities are maintained. She also said that healthcare personnel and midwives have personal protective equipment they need to stay safe at the time of the pandemic.
Stating that it was much encouraging that that 146 States have signed on to the Secretary-General’s call to make peace in the home a reality, she said “as part of our COVID-19 response, we are innovating to deliver remote services such as hotlines, telemedicine and counselling, and gathering and using disaggregated data to support governments in identifying and reaching those most in need.”
She also noted that positive public messaging around gender equality and challenging gender stereotypes and harmful social norms can reduce the risk of violence.