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COVID-19: Millions of women and children at risk as visits to essential services plummet


The coronavirus pandemic is a “magnifier of inequality” that threatens the wellbeing of women, children, and adolescents worldwide, a roundtable of influential female leaders has heard.

The United Nations has predicted that 47 million women could lose access to contraception resulting in 7 million additional unintended pregnancies over the next six months1 because of “deadly and disabling” COVID-19, the virtual event was told.

There could also be 31 million additional cases of gender based violence in low and middle income countries. Policy makers have a clear duty to protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged and to tackle the root causes of inequality with targeted policies and resources, the participants concluded.

Henrietta Fore, executive director of Unicef, said that, in countries with already weak health systems, COVID-19 was disrupting medical supply chains and straining financial and human resources. Visits to healthcare centres are declining owing to lockdowns, curfews, and transport disruptions, and as communities remain fearful of infection. 

She cited recent research that indicated there could be an increase in child deaths amounting to an additional 6000 a day over the next six months, and 56 700 more maternal deaths. “This is a statistic we want to avoid. We are concerned about access to services,” she said.

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Source: BMJ, 29 May 2020

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