COVID-19 could lead to 7 mn unintended pregnancies as access to contraceptives disrupted: UN study
United Nations: Some seven million unintended pregnancies may occur in the coming months as 47 million women in low and middle-income countries will be unable to use modern contraceptives due to the ongoing lockdowns and major disruptions, according to latest UN data.
The study, released on Tuesday and conducted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and partners, estimated 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.
“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 noted.
Globally, around 450 million women across 114 low and middle-income countries use contraceptives, it 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,” the study 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.
These delayed programmes, on top of growing economic hardships globally, could result in an estimated 13 million more child marriages over 10 years.
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.
These figures – produced in collaboration with partners Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Victoria University (Australia) – are rough estimates. The analysis said while a great deal is still unknown about how the pandemic, and the response to it, will unfold around the world, the projections offer an alarming view of the future that could confront women and girls if efforts are not urgently made to secure their welfare and ensure their rights.