Nairobi, 11 July 2020 - As we celebrate the World Population Day today, we are cognizant of the fact that it has come at a very difficult time. The world is coping with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as is the case with most calamities, the poor and marginalized have been hardest hit.
In response, governments have put in place various measures to contain the spread of the virus and while these have yielded some measure of positive results, they have also increased the vulnerability of some populations, such as women and girls. For example, the closure of schools has seen adolescent and teenage girls exposed to early child marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking, child labor and other forms of exploitation. Staying home has also limited their access to comprehensive sexuality education, which has potential to contribute to teen pregnancies. Their exposure to sexual and gender-based violence during this time is imminent.
Women largely depend on the informal economy for their livelihoods, but with the pandemic severely affecting their movement and their small businesses, they have been left economically exposed.
Weak and overstretched health systems have seen governments divert most of their resources to mitigating the challenges of COVID-19. This has caused disruption of services in health facilities and affected the supply of commodities such as contraceptives and HIV drugs.
Lockdowns and curfews have further aggravated the situation by limiting populations’ access to hospitals. Women can no longer easily visit their regular healthcare providers for their family planning needs. This could lead to unplanned pregnancies which may result increased cases of unsafe abortion. It has also become increasingly difficult for pregnant women to access antenatal, delivery and post-natal care services, putting them at greater risk for negative birth outcomes.
As the world commemorates this important day, we implore governments and other stakeholders to recognize the gender dynamics during pandemics such as COVID-19, and work towards ensuring that women and girls have unhindered access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.
-Maryanne Wanyama, Communications Officer, IPPFARO, Nairobi (Kenya) – Email: [email protected]
-Sam Ntelamo, Resident Representative, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Liaison Office to the African Union & UNECA, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) – Phone: +251 (11) 667 0699/0761 - Mobile +251 (0) 944 73 2051- Email: [email protected]