A poll of 124 nations indicated that only 39 per cent had access to family planning services in March-April 2020, just after the Covid-19 pandemic started, and that 21 per cent of these countries reported a decline in access to child protection services for disabled children. Furthermore, throughout the pandemic, 24 percent of 61 nations reported a decrease in response to appeals for help against sexual violence.
The information is part of a policy brief released by the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with other global health organisations, calling for global action to address the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women, children, and adolescents.
The policy brief, titled "Rise, Respond, Recover," aims to refocus attention on women's, children's, and adolescent health during the pandemic.
The brief was launched on July 13th on the sidelines of a meeting of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) for Sustainable Development. It was developed by UNICEF, WHO, PMNCH, and the International Health Partnership for UHC 2030 (UHC2030).
It presented statistics that showed how the pandemic had jeopardised gains made in recent years toward better health for women, children, and adolescents. According to the policy brief, a UNICEF study performed in March-April 2021 indicated that during the epidemic, just 39 per cent of the 124 countries examined had access to family planning services. It was estimated that a lack of access to family planning services could result in an additional 7 million unplanned pregnancies globally.
Similarly, impaired children's access to child safety services has decreased in 21 per cent of the 124 countries studied. A decline in response to appeals for aid against sexual violence was recorded in 24 per cent of the 61 nations examined. According to the brief, the epidemic has resulted in a 1/3rd loss in progress toward reducing gender-based violence, as well as an increase in the number of cases of gender-based violence.
The policy brief is an update to UNICEF and WHO's Protect the Progress: 2020 study, which was developed in support of the Global Strategy for Women's, Children's, and Adolescents' Health.
According to the UNICEF survey included in the policy brief, 41 per cent of the 92 nations questioned experienced problems managing moderate to severe malnutrition.
According to the strategy statement, due to the disruptions in emergency care services, HIV transmission from mother to child might increase by 1.6 times, with more than 2 lakh extra stillbirths projected over the next year.
While there are currently 119 women in extreme poverty for every 100 men, the ratio is expected to deteriorate by 2030, with 121 women for every 100 men living in terrible poverty. South Asian women will be particularly affected, according to the policy statement.
The pandemic's impact on education was also discussed in the policy brief. According to the brief, all schools in 19 countries were closed as of June 30th, 2021, according to a World Bank poll. In 56 other nations, educational institutions were shut down in portions of the country or for specific classes of students.
According to the HLPF, the pandemic has slowed progress toward the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (a collection of global goals), and the ‘call to action' has highlighted critical issue areas and suggested solutions to fulfil them.
Protecting access to health services, improving gender equality and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, improving quality care, supporting and protecting health care workers, ensuring stronger social safety nets, clean water, sanitation, and violence prevention were among the seven goals outlined in the brief.
The policy document urged governments to collect data in a more transparent and comprehensive manner. Governments were also urged to boost access to digital health services and telemedicine for women, children, and adolescents, according to the policy statement.
During the event, Borge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum, noted that countries throughout the world have been innovating and making good use of telemedicine since the beginning of the pandemic, which can be a game-changer in access to healthcare. With the exception of operations that require a patient's personal presence, many consultations can be completed safely online. He claims that this democratises healthcare access.
At the same time, the policy brief warned countries about the detrimental health effects of a more digital society, stating that youngsters are now more prone to advertising and marketing practises that exploit their "developmental fragility."