47m women likely to be deprived of reproductive rights as a result of COVID-19 – UNFPA


The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on Saturday says about 47 million women in low and middle-income countries are likely to be deprived of contraceptives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director, UNFPA, made this known in a statement released by Mrs Kori Habib, the Media Associate of the fund in Abuja.

Kanem, whose speech is entitled “Peace in the home: Safeguarding The Health and Rights of Women and Girls – Even During COVID-19,” is in commemoration of 2020 World Population Day (WPD).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that WPD is annually celebrated on July 11 to raise awareness of the sexual and reproductive health needs of people around the world and in 2020, UNFPA is calling attention to the efforts required to secure the health and human rights of girls and women during the pandemic.

The UNFPA executive director said that “the impact of COVID-19 would likely hamper global efforts to achieve the three ‘zeros’ at the heart of UNFPA’s works.”

She regretted the possibility of a set back in achieving the three zeros, namely: Zero Unmet Need for Contraception, Zero Preventable Maternal Deaths and Zero Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Harmful Practices Against Women and Girls by 2030.

Kanem said “UNFPA projects, for example, that the pandemic will cut global progress toward ending GBV within this decade by at least one third.

“Moreover, if mobility restrictions continue for at least six months with major disruptions to health services, 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries may be deprived of modern contraceptives, resulting in seven million unintended pregnancies.”

Quoting the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, as saying in his call for global “ceasefire” on GBV, Kanem said “peace in the world has its beginning with peace in the home.”

Describing GBV as “a pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic,” the UNFPA executive director expressed worry over the situation in which one woman in three would experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.

She said that “now, with countries on lockdown and household tensions heightened, GBV is on the rise, and sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined by health systems struggling to cope with COVID-19 issues.”

She noted that the COVID-19 crisis had taken a staggering toll on people, communities and economies everywhere, adding that not everyone was affected equally as women and girls tend to suffer most.

Kanem, however, reiterated calls for global attention to the vulnerabilities and needs of women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis, aimed at protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights and ending the shadow pandemic of GBV.

“UNFPA is working to ensure that the supply of modern contraceptives and reproductive health commodities is maintained and that midwives and other health personnel have the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they need to stay safe.

“We are encouraged that so far, 146 member states have signed on to the secretary general’s call to make peace in the home a reality, and we are partnering to support them.

“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.

“Positive public messaging around gender equality and challenging gender stereotypes and harmful social norms can reduce the risk of violence. In this, men and boys can and must be key allies.”

The UNFPA boss said that sexual and reproductive health care was a right, and like pregnancies and childbirth, human rights could not stop for pandemics.

She called for global synergy between countries and organisations, saying “no organisation or country can do this alone,” stressing that “let’s put the brakes on COVID-19 and safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now!.

“The pandemic is a stark reminder of the importance of global cooperation. The UN, which this year marks its 75th anniversary, was founded to foster international cooperation to solve international problems.

“As the global community comes together in solidarity to survive this pandemic, we lay the foundation for more resilient, gender-equal societies and a healthier, more prosperous future for all.” (NAN)

– Jul. 11, 2020 @ 14:19 GMT |

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