COVID-19 lockdown could lead to 7 million unexpected pregnancies– UN warns

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Millions of women could soon become unintentionally pregnant amid economic crisis.

A grim report by UNFPA, the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, has revealed that the ongoing Coronavirus-induced lockdowns and major disruptions in healthcare sector could cause about seven million unintended pregnancies in the coming months.

The data released on Tuesday warned that more than 47 million women could lose access to contraception, leading to 7 million unintended pregnancies in the coming months. The data further showed that gender-based violence and other harmful practices, could “skyrocket” by millions.

A group of sex workers queue, waiting for a local government subsidy facing the contingency caused by COVID-19, in Mexico City on April 4, 2020. ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The research was conducted by UNFPA in collaboration with Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University in the United States, and Victoria University in Australia.

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“This new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally,” said Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director.

“The pandemic is deepening inequalities and millions more women and girls now risk losing the ability to plan their families and protect their bodies and their health,” Dr Kalem added.

The data also shows that globally, around 450 million women across 114 low and middle-income countries use contraceptives, according to UNFPA and partners.

“There also will be 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence during the same period, with a further 15 million more cases expected for every three months the lockdowns continue.

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“The pandemic has also affected programs to prevent female genital mutilation and the experts estimate two million FGM cases may occur over the next decade that could have been averted.

“Similarly, an additional 13 million child marriages could take place this decade as the crisis has disrupted efforts to stop this practice,” the data shows.

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In response, the UNFPA is working to strength 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.

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“Women’s reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded at all costs.

“The services must continue; the supplies must be delivered; and the vulnerable must be protected and supported,” said Kanem.

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