How the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic is impacting sexual and reproductive health and rights and response : results from a global survey of providers, researchers, and policy-makers
Authors & affiliation
Margit Endler, Taghreed Al-Haidari, Chiara Benedetto, Sameena Chowdhury, Jan Christilaw, Faysal El Kak, Diana Galimberti, Claudia Garcia-Moreno, Miguel Gutierrez, Shaimaa Ibrahim, Shantha Kumari, Colleen McNicholas, Desiree Mostajo Flores, John Muganda, Atziri Ramirez-Negrin, Hemantha Senanayake, Rubina Sohail, Marleen Temmerman, Kristina Gemzell-Danielsson
Introduction We aimed to give a global overview of trends in access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and what is being done to mitigate its impact. Material and methods We performed a descriptive analysis and content analysis based on an online survey among clinicians, researchers, and organizations. Our data were extracted from multiple-choice questions on access to SRHR services and risk of SRHR violations, and written responses to open-ended questions on threats to access and required response. Results The survey was answered by 51 people representing 29 countries. Eighty-six percent reported that access to contraceptive services was less or much less because of COVID-19, corresponding figures for surgical and medical abortion were 62% and 46%. The increased risk of gender-based and sexual violence was assessed as moderate or severe by 79%. Among countries with mildly restrictive abortion policies, 69% had implemented changes to facilitate access to abortion during the pandemic, compared with none among countries with severe restrictions (P < .001), 87.5% compared with 46% had implemented changes to facilitate access to contraception (P = .023). The content analysis showed that (a) prioritizations in health service delivery at the expense of SRHR, (b) lack of political will, (c) the detrimental effect of lockdown, and (d) the suspension of sexual education, were threats to SRHR access (theme 1). Requirements to mitigate these threats (theme 2) were (a) political will and support of universal access to SRH services, (b) the sensitization of providers, (c) free public transport, and (d) physical protective equipment. A contrasting third theme was the state of exception of the COVID-19 pandemic as a window of opportunity to push forward women's health and rights. Conclusions Many countries have seen decreased access to and increased violations of SRHR during the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries with severe restrictions on abortion seem less likely to have implemented changes to SRHR delivery to mitigate this impact. Political will to support the advancement of SRHR is often lacking, which is fundamental to ensuring both continued access and, in a minority of cases, the solidification of gains made to SRHR during the pandemic.
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