United Nations, Apr 28 (efe-epa).- Lack of access to health services amid longterm confinement measures due to the coronavirus pandemic could result in millions of unwanted pregnancies in the coming months, the UN warned on Tuesday.
The research by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) “reveals the enormous scale of the impact COVID-19 is having on women as health systems become overloaded, facilities close or only provide a limited set of services to women and girls, and many choose to skip important medical checkups through fear of contracting the virus,” it said in a statement, adding that global supply chain disruptions may also lead to contraceptive shortages.
According to UNFPA calculations, a period of six months of lockdowns and disruptions to health services could leave 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries without access to contraceptives.
The result may be some 7 million unwanted pregnancies, said UNFPA.
“Women’s reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded at all costs. The services must continue; the supplies must be delivered; and the vulnerable must be protected and supported,” UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said in a statement.
In addition, the crisis may delay initiatives to prevent female genital mutilation and increase the number of child marriages due to economic difficulties, the study warned.
UNFPA also warned of a sharp increase in gender-based violence, with up to 31 million additional cases over six months of lockdown.
According to the UN, there has already been an increase in gender-based violence globally, with greater numbers of complaints to authorities and more calls to help hotlines.
In many places, confinement measures have left women trapped with their abusers and without access to safe spaces.
“This new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally,” Kanem said. “The pandemic is deepening inequalities, and millions more women and girls now risk losing the ability to plan their families and protect their bodies and their health.”
The study was conducted by UNFPA, with contributions from Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University in the United States and Victoria University in Australia. EFE-EPA