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The impact of COVID-19 on women’s access to health care

  • The pandemic has undermined the human rights of women and girls and we must learn from its impacts to better rebuild and ensure that these groups are not left behind.
  • Empowering women and girls has been shown to improve the health and well-being of the whole family and the community.
  • Seize the opportunity to transform education by incorporating new teaching methods that meet the unique safety, health and well-being needs of girls and young women.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated lives around the world, 4.6 million deaths and it continues. The pandemic has exposed strong economic and social inequalities and widened the already existing divide with the most vulnerable in society, including uneven impacts affecting women and girls because of their gender.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2021 report estimates that there has been a decline of 39 years due to the pandemic.

Access to health care for women and girls has been disrupted, containment measures have increased gender-based violence and disadvantaged and marginalized girls. Worryingly, it seems that we are not learning from the past, as women and girls have faced similar problems encountered in previous health crises. During the Ebola outbreak, increases in abuse, violence and exploitation faced by women and girls were also reported.

Access to adequate health services, the ability to exercise one’s rights and freedom, and the demand for equal opportunities without distinction of sex are fundamental women’s rights and human rights. We must learn the lessons of the pandemic to ensure that these rights are defended and respected.

Impact on sexual and reproductive health

Health systems around the world have been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic trying to meet demands for care, resulting in collateral damage to women’s health. Many countries have failed to maintain the availability of sexual and reproductive health services, leading to neglect and increased risks to women’s health.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 40 studies on maternal and perinatal outcomes was published in The Lancet, which concluded that there had been significant increases in stillbirths, maternal mortality and maternal depression during the pandemic.

The United Nations Population Fund identified that in 115 low- and middle-income countries, an average disruption of 3.6 months was experienced by women who could not access family planning services, resulting in a 7 million unwanted pregnancies. In Nepal, the pandemic weakened maternal health services, with an increase in maternal deaths, with 258 women dying of pregnancy or childbirth between March 2020 and June 2021, compared to 51 maternal deaths the year before. COVID-19.

Impact on gender-based violence

Violence against women is defined as “physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women”. The UN has issued a guidance note reporting a 25% increase in violence against women. The context of the pandemic has made it complex and difficult for women to access support, with legal, police and health services being overwhelmed by focusing their efforts on the management and response to the pandemic. The women had no choice but to stay locked up with their attackers.

The United Nations Development Program shared The data: worldwide, 243 million women and girls suffered physical / sexual violence in 2020. A number of countries have even declared a state of emergency against gender-based violence and feminicides. In France, reports of domestic violence increased by 30%, in Turkey 36 women were killed in July 2020 alone, and Quebec reported 10 women killed in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 12 women in 2020 as a whole.

Impact on girls and young women

In times of crisis, girls and young women are among the most vulnerable groups in society and are therefore at greater risk. Recent studies show devastating impacts: study conducted in India by BMJ Paediatrics shows that worsened gender disparities during the pandemic were seen in areas such as marital rape, domestic violence and threats of forced marriage, with girls and young women disproportionately affected. In Uganda, a growing number of cases of neglect and physical and sexual abuse against children have been reported, with girls most affected.

While the World Bank has shown that investing in and promoting girls’ education leads to reduced rates of HIV / AIDS, teenage pregnancy and infant mortality, and improved maternal health and economic growth, as well as a path to social justice, UNESCO estimates that 11 million girls may not have the chance to return to school due to the pandemic, jeopardizing their future.

A gender-sensitive recovery

Every country in the world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, undermining the human rights of women and girls, as well as their value and place in society. It is crucial to recognize that women and girls are at higher risk and therefore suffer disproportionately from discrimination, neglect and abuse.

This is an annual meeting showcasing the best examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year hosts a one-day climate summit. This is timely given growing public fears – and citizen action – about weather conditions, pollution, healthy oceans and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture to resolve many of these challenges. But to get there, we need to change the way we produce, operate and consume.

The work of the World Economic Forum is essential, with the summit providing the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at the global political level.

How can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild better to ensure that women and girls are not left behind?

  • Giving a voice to women and girls: policymakers and stakeholders must include women and girls at the center of recovery processes and listen to their needs, challenges and solutions. Empowering women and girls has been shown to improve the health and well-being of the whole family and the community.
  • The right to sexual and reproductive health: recognize and standardize women’s health services as essential health services during epidemics and crises, and support World Health Organization operational guidelines to maintain essential health services during an epidemic.
  • Changing mentalities and adopting positive changes: women and girls in developed and developing countries face inequalities and neglect and it is everyone’s duty to wake up, recognize the harsh reality and become an active player in the solution process.
  • Bringing girls and young women back to school: sseize the opportunity to transform the education system by promoting distance learning programs for all, including the most marginalized, and integrate new teaching methods that meet the unique security needs of girls and young women, of health and well-being.


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