A Critical Need: Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the COVID-19 Pandemic

We are living in a new reality. As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, sweeps through the world in what the World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized as a pandemic, health systems are racing to keep respond and countries and communities are taking unprecedented measures to contain the spread of the virus. The WHO is leading the global effort to detect, prevent, and respond to the pandemic, helping countries — especially those most at risk — prepare with essential supplies, guidance, and data, while helping accelerate worldwide efforts to develop vaccines, tests, and treatments.

While this pandemic affects us all, girls and women face unique challenges. When crisis strikes and health care systems falter, inequalities are compounded, our specific needs are deprioritized, and we face additional barriers to care, particularly sexual and reproductive health care. These impacts will be magnified for the millions of girls and women around the world who already live in crisis or conflict zones, and for those are already marginalized. We are also critical in the response: Women represent 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally. We must protect the health and rights of frontline women health workers while ensuring we do not leave the most vulnerable of us behind.