“As I write this, governments, health systems, healthcare professionals, communities, institutions, and individuals are working to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Such crises often exacerbate systemic challenges, such as gender inequality and the lack of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Throughout the COVID-19 response and recovery, EngenderHealth will work to ensure SRHR priorities are not set back by the crisis, and that in fact we continue to make progress for women’s and girls’ health and rights.
As the COVID-19 situation has evolved rapidly in recent weeks, I have marveled at how quickly, thoughtfully, and strategically the EngenderHealth team has responded. Throughout that response, every individual in every part of the organization has worked with the recognition that during a crisis we must remain vigilant about our mission: supporting SRHR and expanding gender equality.
Previous public health and humanitarian crises have taught us about the consequences we may see if SRHR services are not protected. During crises, access to contraceptives may be interrupted, resulting in unintended pregnancies. When schools are closed, as is the case in many countries now, pregnancy among adolescents may increase. There is increased incidence of gender-based violence (GBV) in the midst of a crisis and in its wake, and when people are advised or required to stay home, they may not be able to leave an unsafe or violent situation. At the same time, resources are pulled away from routine health services. Women and girls assume a heavier caregiver burden and, in turn, face increased risks to their physical and mental health.”