COVID-19 also takes its toll on women avoiding unintended pregnancy

Published July 10, 2020, 10:57 AM

by Marie Tonette Marticio

TACLOBAN City –  The coronavirus disease (COVID-19 crisis) has taken a staggering toll on people, communities, and economies everywhere. But not everyone has been affected equally. Women, who account for the largest share of frontline health workers, for example, have been disproportionately exposed to the virus. 

Supply chains around the world are being disrupted, impacting the availability of contraceptives, and heightening the risk of unintended pregnancy. As countries are on lockdown and health systems struggle to cope, sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined and gender-based violence is on the rise.

In Eastern Visayas, POPCOM 8 Regional Director Elnora Pulma disclosed that there has been a delay in the distribution of over one million modern family planning commodities due to COVID-19.

These include one million pills, 200,000 condoms, and 126,000 progestin sub-dermal implants, which according to her may result in an increased drop out rate of families who are practicing the modern family planning methods.

She added that unplanned births could be most likely the longer the delay is. This was why she appealed to local government units (LGUs) to assist them with logistics considering that there are still movement restrictions.

According to POPCOM, about 58.8 percent of the region’s families use family planning methods, and 40.9 percent of them adopt modern methods.

Recent research of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities highlighted that if the lockdown continues for six months with major disruptions to health services, then 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives resulting in seven million unintended pregnancies. 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence can also be expected. 

In the Philippines, nearly two million women between ages 15 to 49 years old are forecasted to get pregnant, and an additional 214,000 unplanned births this year according to the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI). 

POPCOM said that 10 percent of the births will be among women below 20 years of age.

The study by UPPI also revealed that among women of 15 to 49 years old, there are about 3 million with unmet family planning needs exacerbated by COVID-19.

“With the continuing threat of COVID-19 on the well-being of every Filipino, we should heed the international call to mitigate the impact of the health crisis on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of each woman, girl, and child,” Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, POPCOM’s executive director said. 

Perez added that in the course of preventing the spread of the disease, particularly at the community level, interventions should ensure the access of the marginalized segment of the population to reproductive health services, including family planning services and timely responses to violence against women and girls.

He also pointed out that women disproportionately work in insecure labor markets are harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19. Nearly 60 percent of women worldwide work in the informal economy, at greater risk of falling into poverty. Women’s unpaid care work has increased as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people.