COVID-19 takes heavy toll on women's health: WHO

Given disruptions to essential health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, women's health services are far from being fully restored, with 40 percent of African countries reporting disruptions to sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services, warned the World Health Organization (WHO) Thursday.

"Two years on, the COVID-19 burden still weighs heavily on women. Africa's mothers and daughters are struggling to access the health care they need. The pandemic's disruptive force will be felt by women for many years to come," said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti at an online press conference.

During the pandemic, women and girls are facing a rising risk of sexual violence due to lockdowns, economic uncertainties, decrease in access to key support and health services, and increase in stress in households, said the WHO Regional Office for Africa, warning that services to women who have experienced sexual violence declined in 56 percent in Africa between November and December 2021 compared with the period before the pandemic.

The disruptions also affected the uptake of essential reproductive health supplies. Between June and September 2021, contraceptive use fell in 48 percent of countries, according to a rapid WHO survey in 21 African countries.

Also, COVID-19 is inflicting deep economic damage on women and girls. The pandemic is poised to push more women and girls into extreme poverty. Poverty rates rose from 11.7 percent in 2019 to 12.5 percent in 2021 and it may take until 2030 to revert to pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by the International Monetary Fund, the UN Development Programme and the UN Women.

"Countries must look beyond short-term measures to restore services to pre-pandemic levels and make major investments for stronger systems capable of withstanding health emergencies while ensuring continuity of key services," said Moeti.


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