Coronavirus lockdown may lead to 7M accidental pregnancies and 31M additional gender-violence cases, warns UN
Millions of women and children are at risk of losing their ability to plan their families and protect their bodies, said a UN official
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many countries to shut down. And if lockdowns continue for six months, the world might witness around 7 million cases of accidental pregnancies and millions of cases of violence against women and children, warns UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
“This new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally”, Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director, said in a statement.
She added that the pandemic is deepening inequalities. As a result, millions of women and children are at risk of losing their ability to plan their families and protect their bodies.
UNFPA worked with Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University in the United States, and Victoria University in Australia to bring out this data.
Lockdowns are disrupting supplies of contraceptives
Lockdowns are affecting the supply of contraceptives around the world, leading to shortages. Around 450 million women across 114 low -and middle-income countries use contraceptives, according to UNFPA and partners.
If this continues for the next six months, around 47 million people in these countries may lose access to them, leading to 7 million accidental pregnancies, shows UN data.
Experts predict a similar rise in developed countries. In the UK, The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) -the largest provider of abortions in the country -issued a similar warning. The organization said that extended lockdowns and a shortage of birth controls might drive accidental pregnancies in the country.
Commenting on the dwindling supplies, Dr. Kanem of UN said: "The services must continue, the supplies must be delivered, and the vulnerable must be protected and supported."
Lockdowns affecting healthcare for women and children
Restrictions are also rattling healthcare services, which are increasingly closing. What is more, the fear of contracting the disease is pushing away many women and girls from important medical check-ups, the UNFPA said.
Data from the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) - a global non-governmental organization - also reflects a similar trend. According to them, more than 5,000 mobile clinics across 64 countries have shut their doors, thanks to the pandemic and related restrictions. Most are in South Asia and Africa, but Latin America and Europe have seen hundreds of closures, they add.
Given these circumstances, about 100 non-governmental groups in Europe have urged the government to implement measures ensuring women and girls do not miss out on reproductive healthcare.
Violence against women
There is a spike in domestic abuse cases as more people stay cooped up at home. The UN agency predicts the world will see 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence in the following six months.
The UN agency has expressed concerns over female genital mutilation (FGM). Restrictions have stopped programs that check this practice. As a result, they expect to see two million preventable FGM cases over the next decade.
Restrictions are hampering programs that prevent child marriages too. They predict an additional 13 million child marriages this decade.
The UNFPA is working on solutions. "The agency is focused 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 statement read.