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COVID-19 could lead to 7 million unintended pregnancies: UN study

Geneva: Ongoing lockdowns and major disruptions to health services during the COVID-19 pandemic could leave 47 million women in low and middle-income countries unable to use modern contraceptives, leading to seven million unintended pregnancies in the coming months, according to data released by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and partners.

The agencies estimate that the number of women unable to access family planning or facing unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence and other harmful practices, could “skyrocket” by millions due to the crisis.

 

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

“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,” Kanem said.

As a clear view of the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic is only beginning to take shape, experts estimate that the human cost could be extraordinary.

The economic and physical disruptions caused by the disease could have vast consequences for the rights and health of women and girls, the new analysis by the UNFPA and partners noted.

Globally, around 450 million women across 114 low and middle-income countries use contraceptives, the study said.

“Significant levels of lockdown-related disruption over 6 months could leave 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries unable to use modern contraceptives, leading to a projected 7 million additional unintended pregnancies. Six months of lockdowns could result in an additional 31 million cases of gender-based violence,” it said.

The pandemic is also expected to cause significant delays in programmes to end female genital mutilation and child marriage, resulting in an estimated two million more cases of FGM over the next decade than would otherwise have occurred.