It is critical that we continue to protect and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crises such as pandemics often exacerbate existing gender inequalities and can have devastating impacts on women, girls, and vulnerable populations, especially in the low- and middle-income countries where we work.
History has taught us about the importance of SRHR during times of crisis. It’s when access to contraceptives may be interrupted, resulting in unintended pregnancies; when schools close down, culminating in an uptick in adolescent pregnancy; when gender-based violence incidents increase due to people being more likely to be stuck in an unsafe home situation; and when women and girls face heightened risks to their physical and mental health due to a larger caregiver burden.
We have already seen evidence of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care being de-prioritized or otherwise limited as governments mobilize to address the pandemic. Reasons include:
- SRH care not being deemed essential
- Providers who normally offer SRH care being diverted to the COVID-19 response
- Providers not wanting to deplete scarce supplies of personal protective equipment
- Rooms usually designated for contraceptive counseling and services being repurposed for isolation of possible COVID-19 patients
- Stockouts of contraceptives and other SRH supplies
Despite these challenges, EngenderHealth will continue to implement high-quality, gender-equitable SRHR programs throughout the COVID-19 crisis while working closely with governments and other development partners globally, regionally, and across our program countries to support pandemic preparedness and response efforts.