Manila, Philippines - The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN agency dedicated to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV), is deeply concerned over the potentially deadly effect the current COVID-19 surge (17,220 cases last 06 Jan 2022) , coupled with the destruction left by Typhoon Odette in the Visayas and Mindanao regions, will have on pregnant women, those with high-risk pregnancies, and victims of domestic violence.
Reports of women in labor being turned away from hospitals due to overcapacity have already appeared in the media. As hospitals reach full capacity due to COVID-19 patients and possible closures and lockdowns commence, more and more women in need will be cut off from essential medical and protection services, placing women and their unborn children in great danger.
The looming lockdowns and the shutdown of basic social services traps victims of domestic violence at home with their abusers, with no avenue for escape. Globally, gender-based violence (GBV), including domestic abuse, tends to increase during crises and emergencies. The pandemic is no different.
The Philippine Statistics Authority Civil Registry data reveals that there was an estimated 30% increase in mothers dying during childbirth in 2020, and preliminary data for 2021 shows that the trend will remain the same. Unintended pregnancies may also increase to up to 42%. Analysis done by UNFPA in early 2020 revealed that more women delivered at home compared to previous years. In Metro Manila, for example, there were three times more women who gave birth at home in January 2021 compared to the same period in 2020 pre-pandemic.
UNFPA calls on the government and its partners to place the needs of pregnant and lactating women and victims of domestic violence at the center of its response by ensuring the continuity of essential and life-saving SRH and GBV services throughout the current COVID-19 surge, and provide available facilities that cater pregnant women, whether COVID-positive or negative. UNFPA advocates for hotlines or helplines to remain open in order to accommodate the needs of women and girls for family planning and GBV response.
“We need to act quickly and together to ensure women and girls experience safe pregnancy and childbirth, have continued access to sexual and reproductive health services, and be proteceted from domestic violence during this COVID-19 surge and throughout the Typhoon Odette relief efforts,” shares UNFPA Philippine Country Representative Dr. Leila Joudane.
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