A report released by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) last month estimated 7 million unplanned pregnancies if lockdowns and disruptions last for 6 months. The predicted spike in the population under the shadow of a global pandemic is indeed shocking. Detailed analysis on how COVID-19 became a threat on global population control plans can be read here.
COVID-19, which has affected millions across the globe, has also led to the need for lockdown and quarantine measures. Implementation of these measures is needed as it has been observed to be the only way to stop the virus from spreading further. However, a side effect of this measure is the dreaded confinement with one’s abuser. Due to this, an increase in reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence is being witnessed.
According to a blog post by International Planned Parenthood Federation titled COVID-19 and the rise of gender-based violence, “Lockdowns and lack of prioritization of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) response services mean many women will face forced pregnancies.”
UNFPA released new evidence recently which revealed that “for every 3 months the lockdown continues an additional 15 million cases of gender-based violence are expected, 13 million women will not be able to access modern contraceptives and there will be an estimate of 325,000 unintended pregnancies.”
This rise in unintended pregnancies is another by-product of Covid-19 which will not only cause a sudden increase in population in the coming months but also endanger the health of many women who don’t have access to proper healthcare services during the lockdown. Moreover, the increase in the number of childbirths will also put a strain on the already weak healthcare system of developing countries further creating healthcare issues for women and their newborns.
Thus, the pandemic has created a perfect storm especially for women. Women in the developing world already lacked access to modern contraception, this issue was effectively being tackled by international organizations before the onset of the pandemic. Now with the COVID 19 pandemic, access to modern contraceptives is getting even more problematic. A similar situation was experienced during outbreaks like Ebola previously with the vulnerable communities being especially hard hit during these times.
With the impact of COVID 19 on the economy, a sudden spike in population due to the above-mentioned factors can have devastating results. Therefore, to mitigate the impact of COVID 19 on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of women and to sustain SRH services, International Medical Advisory Panel (IMAP) has given the following recommendations to its member associations in its statement.
Firstly, communities must be made aware of COVID 19 and all myths and misconceptions must be busted. Awareness and education regarding this infectious disease must be provided through different platforms to reach larger audiences.
Secondly, the provision of essential sexual and reproductive health services must be ensured during the pandemic. These include contraception, safe abortion, active support, and prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. These services were previously thought of as non-essential leading to their suspension during the lockdown.
The supply of essential SRH commodities must also be ensured. The scarcity of SRH commodities including contraceptives must be avoided through stock monitoring and collaboration with manufacturers and distributors.
Finally, measures must be taken to ensure the safety of clients and service providers. Service providers have increased risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus which will prevent them from providing essential SRH services. Hence, their protection is of the utmost importance.
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