The group, including Médecins Sans Frontières Australia, expressed concerns that women and girls across the globe are struggling to access critical sexual and reproductive health care, citing evidence that COVID-19 lockdowns are on track to cause millions of unplanned pregnancies. In the Pacific, fear of the impact of COVID-19 on already fragile health systems has impacted on service delivery, with some organisations no longer travelling to rural and remote areas and other service delivery points reducing operating hours or closing altogether. Most group training on sexual health and reproductive rights have been cancelled as the result of physical distancing measures.
A recent UNFPA report makes the grim assessment that even a six-month lockdown could mean 47 million girls and women globally cannot access contraception and 7 million will become pregnant. The agency estimates that for every three months the lockdown continues, 2 million more will be unable to use contraceptives due to supply chain disruptions.
“We are facing a very serious public health emergency,” Consortium Co-Chair Nate Henderson of Family Planning NSW said. “There is clear evidence that reduced access to contraception, safe abortion and post-abortion care, testing and treatment for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, as well as maternal health services will result in increased pregnancies, sexually transmissible infections and complications (including death) from unsafe abortions and childbirth.”