Women’s Health at a Great Risk due to COVID-19 Pandemic, Says UN

Women’s Health at a Great Risk due to COVID-19 Pandemic, Says UN 

Last updated on April 9th, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic has spread like a wildfire around the globe, disrupting almost every sector, industry and the lives of people. The coronavirus outbreak has been especially difficult for women as they have lost access to vital health services and social support.

Around different parts of the world, women’s health has been suffering the most as the cases of domestic violence and maternal mortality have increased. And, there seems to be a lack of proper healthcare facilities amid the rising number of the coronavirus infections.

According to Dr Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), COVID-19 pandemic has directly affected the access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and gender-based violence (GBV) services “at a time when women and girls need these services most”.

As more countries impose a nation-wide lockdown, women in abusive relationships are trapped at home, without any access to social or mental support.

Moreover, it is an extremely difficult time for pregnant women as they are not sure if they should visit a clinic or a hospital for antenatal care. During the 2014-2016 ebola epidemic, maternal mortality ratio had skyrocketed as women stayed home in quarantine and were forced to deliver babies at home. A similar situation may be observed once the data for maternal mortality ratio during the COVID-19 pandemic is analysed and released.

The UNFPA has called for the full maintenance of sexual and reproductive health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the UNFPA, these services should comprise of antenatal and postnatal care, access to modern contraception and emergency contraception, and safe abortion and post-abortion care “to the full extent of the law” in all areas where services are likely to be impacted.

The organisation has also pushed for priority testing of pregnant women showing any symptoms of the coronavirus, along with the pregnancy wards being isolated from that of the coronavirus patients.

Women make 70 percent of the world’s global health and social sector workforce. However, their protection at the front-line seems to be the least priority of the governments. Apart from protective gears, masks, gloves etc., they should also be provided with psychological support as they are being exposed to high amount of stress being at the front line.

THE UNFPA has also raised concerns over a potential risk of increased number of female-genital mutilations, as well as child or forced marriages when there is a restriction on movement, poor visibility and the protection systems are weak especially in developing countries.

In an effort to make this women’s life a little easy during they COVID-19 pandemic, the UNFPA has introduced an online dashboard in Moldova for the health system that shows the caseload grouped according to location, sex, age and pregnancy status.

The organisation is also working closely with China, Iran and the Philippines and has been providing hygienic items as well as personal protective equipment to women working in the health sector and midwives.

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