An interim report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) documents potentially “calamitous impacts on women’s health” across the globe as a result of the stay-at-home orders issued due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The report examines the adverse effects COVID-19 is poised to have on women, including increases in domestic violence and disruptions in the UNFPA’s Sustainable Development Goals to reduce gender-based violence in the forms of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage by 2030, as well as increase women’s access to health care resources.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Avenir Health, Victoria University and the UNFPA used statistical models with estimates of the occurrence of violence against women in conjunction with projected delays in UNFPA prevention efforts, as well as increases in violence during lockdown periods meant to account for underreporting of rates of violence against women.
Using these inputs, the results were dismal; during the COVID-19 pandemic, projections suggest 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence for an average lockdown of six months. Notably, for every 3 months the lockdown continues, an additional 15 million extra cases of gender-based violence are expected.
Preventable FGM cases are anticipated to rise by 2 million between 2020 and 2030, as well as 13 million additional childhood marriages.
These grim projections are largely results of delays in UNFPA interventions due to preventative measures such as social distancing and stay-at-home orders that undermine progress made to end violence against women.
Report authors note that these additional occurrences would not happen if not for precautionary measures against the coronavirus being necessary to undertake.
The report also delves into the repercussions coronavirus-related deterrents will have on access to female contraception. Data estimates that as a result of various levels of health service disruptions, 47 million women across 114 low and middle-income countries may not be able to access contraception, resulting in an estimate of 7 million unintended pregnancies if the lockdown extends for six months.
“This new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally. 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,” said Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. “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."
This follows the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres’s warning that coronavirus lockdowns, while necessary public health precautions, may conversely result in a “global surge” in domestic violence.
“Women’s rights and freedoms are essential to strong, resilient societies,” Guterres said. “Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people’s homes, as we work to beat COVID-19.”
BREAKING NEWS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS IN AMERICA