Pandemic Causing Shortage of Contraceptives and Will Impact Women’s Reproductive Health, Says U.N.

The number of women unable to access contraception, experiencing unintended pregnancies and facing gender-based violence will skyrocket as the COVID-19 pandemic continues over the coming months, according to a new United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report.

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

New data released by UNFPA, the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, predicts that over 47 million women could lose access to contraception, resulting in 7 million unplanned pregnancies if the lockdown continues for six months.

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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, health facilities are becoming overrun by patients with the virus, resulting in fewer resources or time available for women seeking out medical attention for their sexual or reproductive health. Disruptions in global supply chains are also causing a shortage of contraceptives, particularly in the lowest-income countries, according to the report.

The report also predicts that 31 million additional gender-based violence cases can be expected over the coming months as victims of domestic violence are trapped at home with their abusers. Already, data from around the world suggests that lockdown has significantly increased domestic violence rates.

Women’s reproductive and sexual health in low to middle-income countries are more likely to be affected by the pandemic, the report notes. The disruption to prevention programs could result in an additional 2 million female genital cutting cases as well as 13 million additional child marriages in the coming decade that would otherwise have been averted.

“Women’s reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded at all costs,” Dr. Kanem. “The services must continue; the supplies must be delivered; and the vulnerable must be protected and supported.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline via text or call at 1-800-799-7233.

Please send any tips, leads, and stories to virus@time.com.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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