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UN: 12 million women denied access to birth control due to pandemic

Nearly 12 million women lost access to family planning services including birth control and contraceptives because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Population Fund said in a report published Thursday.

Why it matters: The UNPF said the data from 115 low-and-middle-income countries shows the disruption for a total of 3.6 months caused by the pandemic over the past year led to 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.

  • The report, published on the first anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, is another reminder of how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women.
  • UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem noted to AFP that while the coronavirus has "wrought havoc" on women and girls around the world, the "poorest and the most vulnerable now are seeing the most dire consequences."

What they did: The UNFPA made the projections using anonymous Google Mobility data that showed access to grocery stores and pharmacies to indicate access to essential services, and from collecting data from country partners.

What they found: The worst disruptions to family planning services were largely concentrated in April and May, when governments around the world imposed lockdowns and other restrictions on citizens in attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Yes, but: Researchers found the disruption was not as bad as the UNFPA had projected last April, when the reproductive and maternal health agency forecast that some 47 million women would be denied access to contraceptives if lockdowns had continued for six months.

  • "From governments to manufacturers to healthcare providers, the world’s supply chains for modern contraceptives have shown their resilience, and largely bounced back from the stock-outs we saw in the earlier days of the pandemic," Kanem said in an emailed statement.

But, but, but: The report makes clear that "disruptions remain a concern, and limited data and some inconsistencies across countries require ongoing monitoring and analysis."

The bottom line: Per the report, "The severe social and economic impacts of COVID-19 demand intensified action for women and girls."

Read the full report, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper... WHO: 1 in 3 women globally experiences violence

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