DURBAN – The de-escalation of non-essential health services by hospitals, as they prioritised attending to Coronavirus cases may negatively impact women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health, impeding their access to care.
According to a new report by the UN Population Fund published in The Lancet journal, many countries implemented tough lockdowns and travel restrictions in a bid to slow transmission. In doing so, some governments did not heed the World Health Organization (WHO) advice and instead forced sexual and reproductive health services to close because these services were not classified as essential.
These services include abortion or even, as Human Rights Watch has reported in Brazil, contraception. This decision not only denied women and girls access to time-sensitive and potentially life-saving services, but also further distanced them from already difficult-to-access sexual and reproductive health care.
“We predict there could be up to 7 million unintended pregnancies worldwide because of the crisis, with potentially thousands of deaths from unsafe abortion and complicated births due to inadequate access to emergency care. We are particularly concerned about “the skyrocketing of gender-based violence, which is a “pandemic within a pandemic,” said Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
Meanwhile, another study, by the SA Medical Journal states that the short and long-term effects of the disruption to surgical services will be detrimental to the health of South Africans.
“A large backlog of surgical conditions needing care should be expected once the virus peaked. The public and private health systems needed to work together to handle the surgery backlog and save lives. Public hospitals’ timely return to surgeries will be hindered by Covid-19,” stated the report.
It is estimated that globally, about 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. It tends to increase during every type of emergency, including the coronavirus pandemic.
“Violence against women can result in injuries and serious physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems, including sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and unplanned pregnancies,” said the WHO.
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