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COVID-19 exposed the shortcomings of global healthcare and public infrastructure.
Women’s and girls’ health has been severely affected during the pandemic.
Increased investment in women’s and girls’ health is of utmost urgency.
Every year on 28 May, as the world marks the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, the health of women and girls comes into sharp focus. It is essential, however, to prioritize women’s and girls’ health and healthcare every day. Global and local communities need to take the necessary steps to improve their financial and social security and bridge the gaps in the provision of essential health services.
Poor access to healthcare
Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of global health and public infrastructure. Vulnerable populations have disproportionately suffered the impacts of the pandemic. Women’s and girls’ health has been severely affected. Their access to essential health services, in many cases, has been cut off, and recovery efforts have been actively deprioritised.
During the height of the pandemic, funds were directed away from women’s and girls’ health towards other life-saving services. There was also a general lack of awareness and prioritisation. This has led to major funding gaps in women’s healthcare. In addition, an underfunding of women’s health research means that specific challenges or diseases that affect women and girls remain unaddressed.
In a world where sexual and reproductive ill-health accounts for one-third of the global burden of disease among women of reproductive age, increased investment in women’s and girls’ health is of utmost urgency. For women to have autonomy over their bodies and decision-making processes, donors and policy-makers must ensure that they have access to quality healthcare services.
Providing women and girls with better access to healthcare is important to build resilience for future crisis.
Access to sexual and reproductive health
Last year, UNFPA reported that 12 million women in poorer countries lost access to contraception during the pandemic. This led to 1.4 million unplanned pregnancies. The social and economic impact of these pregnancies is projected to worsen due to the climate crisis. In Ukraine, where the conflict with Russia continues, the situation is just as dire.
“We are foreseeing that 265,000 women are pregnant in Ukraine and in the next three months 80,000 will give birth.
—Monica Ferro, Director of Geneva Office, UNFPA
Ferro warns that there there is likely to be an increase in maternal mortality and morbidity if these women can’t access birthing facilities and skilled birth attendants.
According to a report released recently by the UN, nearly 50% of global pregnancies are unintended, 60% of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, and 45% of all abortions are unsafe, leading to 5-13% of maternal deaths. Moreover, unintended pregnancies can push women out of the labour market, which can push them into poverty. This then results in poorer nutrition and a decline in schooling for girls.
The lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services has severe impacts on women from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This is why governments and the private sector must increase their investment in health systems and ensure that women and girls have equal access to healthcare.
According to a recent study by the WHO, an increase in investment into sexual and reproductive health data collection at the country level is essential to understand the…