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Lifestyle - Women’s Health - The Pandemic’s Knock-On Effects Could Impact More on Women’s Health, UN

The coronavirus pandemic could impact heavily on women’s health. That’s according to a United Nations Population Fund report. The UN body projects that Covid-19 could cause more collateral damage than what the pandemic itself could potentially cause.

Spotlight on Women’s Health

As the World Health Organization (WHO) battles the pandemic with the help of other global authorities, the UN Population Fund points to severe implications of the pandemic on women’s health, including the rising levels of gender-based violence (GBV), as well as maternal mortality as global health facilities crumble under the pressures of coronavirus. With the implication being that women (especially pregnant) will lose access to essential support services.

As the world struggles to weather down the Covid-19 storm, one particular group of people is expected to be at more risk – women. The pandemic has spiked domestic violence and also caused disruption to sexual and reproductive health access, notes Dr. Natalia, UNFPA, chief executive director. She further adds that risk groups such as pregnant women (needing antenatal care) and those in abusive households are trapped, especially for regions with "stay at home" measures.

Maternal Mortality

While WHO’s data is limited as to what extent the pandemic has impacted virus transmissions from mother to child, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) is still high as pregnant women are undecided as to whether to visit clinical support services or not. And this is predominant in weak health systems. Furthermore, the situation is exacerbated by cultural misconceptions about Covid-19, which forces others to attempt the riskier home births.

Soon after the pandemic struck, WHO predicted that the pandemic could potentially lead to 500,000 plus preventable maternal deaths, which was preliminary estimations based on the observation that pregnant women were declining to honor postnatal appointments. However, there is no official confirmation yet as to what collateral damage the pandemic has caused.

Awareness and Dissemination Of Essential Support Services

As Dr. Natalia points out, creating awareness and health systems' readiness to deal with the pandemic's impact on the aforementioned women's risk groups is a good starting point. The UNFPA's initiatives in highly impacted regions include the provision of:

  • Postnatal care

  • Antenatal care

  • Access to modern and emergency contraception

  • Access to safe abortion

Moreover, the organization has set out to provide reproductive health kits in vulnerable areas throughout the pandemic. Additionally, Dr. Natalia has asked health authorities across the world to prioritize testing of risk groups (pregnant women) who showcase symptoms of Covid-19, and their subsequent isolation in pregnancy wards if results turn positive.

Female Workforce on Medical Frontlines

Dr. Natalia points out another crucial concern with regards to women’s health. She says that 70% of the world's health workforce comprises women, which means more women are exposed to the health risk that stems from working in high-risk Covid-19 frontlines. However, she urges more government support for PPEs, as well as the provision of psychological support to relieve stress for women working on the frontlines of the pandemic.

(Edited by: The Decision Maker team)


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