Coronavirus chaos is set to wreak havoc on women’s sexual and reproductive health around the world, a report has found.
The study, carried out by the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA), has estimated 47 million women in 114 low and middle-income nations will not able to access modern contraception if coronavirus disruption carries on for six months.
Researchers predicted there will be an extra seven million unintended pregnancies and 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence. Some 15 million extra cases of gender-based violence are expected for every three months which the coronavirus lockdown goes on.
Dr Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UNFPA, said: “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.
“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.”
Campaigners around the world say domestic abuse has rocketed since governments have introduced lockdown measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Police in the UK have reported a rise in domestic violence incidents directly linked to the pandemic, while China saw a threefold increase in cases of domestic abuse reported to police stations in February in comparison with the year before.
The UN study found the coronavirus pandemic could dramatically weaken headway to meet long-standing global health targets due to clinics being forced to close or run skeleton services.
Researchers further warned of the potential for profound contraception shortages caused by upheaval to the global supply chain.
Progress on female gender mutilation (FGM) was predicted to be massively hampered by the coronavirus emergency as well.
The study estimates 2 million FGM cases may take place during the next 10 years that could have been avoided. FGM, internationally recognised as a human rights violation, can cause a lifetime of severe health problems and pain and refers to any procedure that intentionally alters female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
It also suggested the coronavirus outbreak could stall measures to curb the practice of child marriage and possibly lead to an additional 13 million child marriages in the next decade that could have been stopped.