COVID-19: 47m women likely to be deprived of reproductive rights – UNFPA

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By Ikenna Osuoha

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

Dr Natalia Kanem, 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,” in commemoration of World Population Day (WPD) said that the impact of COVID-19 would likely hamper global efforts to achieve three ‘zeros’ at the heart of our UNFPA’s works.

NAN reports that the World Population day is a United Nations’ initiative celebrated on July 11 every year.

NAN reports that the day aims at spreading awareness about the exploding world population and the importance of reproductive health.

She regretted the possibility of a set back in their achieving of the three zero -zero unmet need for contraception, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls by 2030.

“UNFPA projects, for example, 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 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,” Kanem said.

The Executive Director said that peace in the world had its beginning with peace in the home, quoting the United Nations Secretary-General as saying in his call for a global ‘ceasefire’ on Gender-Based Violence.

Describing Gender Based Violence as a pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic, Kanem expressed worry over how one woman in three have experienced physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.

“Now, with countries on lockdown and household tensions heightened, gender-based violence is on the rise, and sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined by health systems struggling to cope with COVID-19.”

She said that the COVID-19 crisis has taken a staggering toll on people, communities and economies everywhere,noting 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 gender-based violence.

“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 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.

According to her, together, let’s put the brakes on COVID-19 and safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now!”canvassed for global synergy between countries and organisations saying no organization or country could do this alone.

“The pandemic is a stark reminder of the importance of global cooperation. The United Nations, 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)

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