COVID-19

UNFPA raises concerns about Women’s Health

courtesy UNFPA

Women’s health and reproductive rights are amongst the many areas that are negatively impacted by COVID-19.

With the imposition of lock-downs and curfews across countries battling the spread of the virus, officials say accessing safe contraceptive methods is becoming increasing difficult for women.

The situation is the same in Sri Lanka says Sonali Gunasekera, Director Advocacy, Family Planning Association.  The FPA is doing its best to stock all pharmacies with contraceptives and also supply the Family Health Bureau, so women can get help they need, she said.

In the case of contraceptive pills, women can obtain those at pharmacies as there is no requirement for a prescription, she said.  Women who are using other contraceptive methods such as implants and injections which are good for short periods such as about three months could also switch to using pills, if necessary, she stated.   For those who may have had unprotected sex or worry about an unplanned pregnancy, the ‘morning after pill’ is available.  It is perfectly safe to be taken within a five day period, she said.

Acknowledging that during curfew periods and times of limited travel, it will be difficult to access any of these services, or attend regular medical examinations, she advises that women should contact their MOH offices to obtain information about when the clinics will be open.

Those needing help or advise can also contact the FPA helpline between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on 077 989 5252/077 785 0649 or access their chat line on www.happylife.lk/

While the FPA and the Family Health Bureau is dealing with issues that crop up owing to the COVID-19 crisis as best as they can, Ms. Gunasekera, added that there are concerns about the continued supply of all the products, as some manufacturing plants have faced closure or are temporarily shut down as the countries from where these products are imported are also in lockdown.

Meanwhile, a press release from the UNFPA states that across the globe, “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,” owing to COVID-19.

UNFPA data suggests that the overload of health systems dealing with the pandemic, and disruption of the global supply chain of contraceptive products will impact negatively on women and girls around the world. Being trapped at home for long periods is also raising concerns that there will be an escalation of gender-based violence.

According to key projections the UNFPA released, ‘47 million women in 114 low- and middle-income countries’ may be deprived access to modern contraceptives and ‘7 million unintended pregnancies are expected to occur if the lockdown carries on for 6 months’ and major disruptions to health services occur. It further states that an additional 2 million women may lose access to modern contraceptives, ‘for every three months, the lockdown continues.’  The statement also says that gender-based violence could escalate with “31 million additional cases’ occurring if the lockdown goes on for six months with 15 million more cases expected for every three month extension.

There are also concerns around expected escalation of child-marriages and genital mutilation.

Given the data, the UNFPA is currently working with governments and partners “to strengthen 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 statement adds that the data is a result of a research conducted in association with Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Victoria University (Australia).

 

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