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Lockdowns spell doom for women in poor countries — UNFPA

Nthatuoa Koeshe

AT LEAST 47 million women in 114 low- and middle-income countries, including Lesotho, may struggle to access modern contraceptives during the coronavirus induced lockdowns.

This is according to the report on a United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) research released on 28 April.

The report also predicts that the lack of access to contraceptives will lead to 7 million pregnancies in the coming months.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the number of women unable to access family planning, facing unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence and other harmful practices could skyrocket by millions of cases in the months ahead, according to data released today by UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency,” a statement from the UNFPA reads.

The research reveals the enormous scale of the impact Covid-19 is having on women as health systems become overloaded and facilities close or provide only limited services.

This will also drive most women and girls into skipping important medical checkups through fear of contracting the virus.

The UNFPA says global supply chain disruptions may also lead to significant shortages of contraceptives while gender-based violence is expected to soar as women are trapped at home for prolonged periods.

UNFPA executive director, Natalia Kanem said the new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally.

She said the pandemic is deepening inequalities while at the same time stripping women and children the ability to plan their families and protect their bodies.

“Women’s reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded at all costs,” Dr Kanem said.

“The services must continue; the supplies must be delivered; and the vulnerable must be protected and supported,” she added.

For every three months the lockdowns continue, and additional 2 million women may fail to access modern contraceptives, the report said.

Even more worryingly, an additional 31 million cases of gender-based violence must be expected if the lockdown continues for at least six months.

“For every three months the lockdown continues, an additional 15 million extra cases of gender-based violence are expected.”

The UNFPA said Covid-19 would disrupt efforts to end child marriages, potentially resulting in an additional 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030. These could have been averted if it was not for the lockdowns.

“The UNFPA is working with governments and partners to prioritise the needs of women and girls of reproductive age and to respond urgently during the challenging public health emergency.

“Our priorities are focusing on strengthening health systems, procuring and delivering essential supplies to protect health workers, ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services, and promoting risk communication and community engagement,” the UNFPA said.

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