Impact of COVID-19 on Reproductive Health, Family Planning and GBV in Pakistan

During public health emergencies, human and financial resources are often diverted from essential health programs to respond to the disease outbreak. Emergency response to COVID-19 outbreak also means that resources for essential maternal, newborn health, gender, reproductive health services will be diverted to deal with the outbreak, contributing to a rise in maternal and newborn mortality, increased unmet need for contraception, sexually transmitted infections and gender-based violence.

Emergency Maternal and reproductive health services may take the brunt, with inadequate facilities for isolation areas to assess and care for women in labour and the newborn. Life-saving procedures including treatment of pregnancy and delivery related complications are delayed due to staff deployment, staff not prepared and protected for service, and shortages and lack of infrastructure, e.g. operation theatres and ward space. Women who have to spend time recovering in hospital in Pakistan are often reliant on relatives for food and care, making isolation and infection control measures difficult and intensifying the risks of COVID-19 spread

Availability and access to family planning services may be impacted as recent evidence shows that the need for family planning would increase during the period of imposition of isolation at home. The unmet need for contraception is aggravated as the contraceptive commodities delivery to facilities and households are negatively affected by limited imports and in-country availability and distribution of contraceptives commodities. For most women in reproductive ages, family planning is critical as other health care. As public health infrastructure shifts to support and treat people with COVID-19, it is essential that we maintain access to essential maternal health services and commodities including family planning. In the absence of these measures, consequences could be life-threating and reverse recent gains made towards ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health in Pakistan.

Lockdown and restrictions under pandemic may increase exploitation of vulnerable groups, who lack coping mechanism. This may include increased incidents of sexual and physical abuse, and spousal violence.