The economic and physical disruptions due to COVID-19 pandemic could have widespread consequences for the rights and health of women and girls, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) analysis.
The UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, it Supports the reproductive health care for women and youth in more than 150 countries, which are home to more than 80 per cent of the world's population
According to the report titled, 'Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Planning and Ending Gender-based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage' continuous lockdowns and significant disruptions to medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic could leave 47 million women in low and middle-income countries unable to use modern contraceptives, which could result in seven million unintended pregnancies in the coming months.
The agencies have 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 was quoted as saying on April 27.
"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 added.
The report states that for every three months the lockdown extends, assuming high levels of disruption, up to two million additional women may be unable to use modern contraceptives. Further, if the lockdown continues for six months and there are major service disruptions due to COVID-19, an additional 7seven million unintended pregnancies are expected to occur.
"Around 450 million women across 114 low and middle-income countries use contraceptives," the study said.
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to reduce prevention and protection efforts, social services and care thereby increasing the incidence of violence.
Female Genital Mutilation
According to the study, 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.
The data stated in the study has been produced in collaboration with partners Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Victoria University (Australia) are rough estimates.
Interruptions to global supply chains could lead to significant shortages of contraceptives, the study noted, while gender-based violence already on the increase due to the pandemic, is expected to further rise as women are trapped at home for prolonged periods.
"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," Kanem added.