Dr. Natalia Kanem on UNFPA and COVID-19

Watch Dr. Kanem’s speech here.

Women’s reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded. Services must continue, supplies must be delivered, and the vulnerable must be protected and supported.

-UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem

The COVID-19 crisis and UNFPA’s response was the topic of Dr. Kanem’s keynote speech for The Bonni Curran Memorial Lecture for the 13th annual Family of Woman Festival. The Festival benefits Friends of UNFPA, the official fundraiser of the sexual and reproductive health agency. Peggy Goldwyn, who moderated the lecture, is on Friends of UNFPA’s Board of Directors and is a lifelong advocate for women and girls.  

UNFPA’s Coronavirus Response

The pandemic has particularly impacted women, leaving 47 million women without access to modern birth control. This lapse in essential healthcare will result in over seven million unwanted pregnancies. Childbirth is less safe, also. Some mothers are forgoing prenatal and delivery care over fears of contracting the virus. At the same time, health workers are at increased risk due to lack of personal protective equipment and fatigue.

In her speech, Dr. Kanem explains that a six-month lockdown will cause over 31 million cases of gender-based violence. Further, every three extra months of quarantine restrictions, experts expect 15 million more cases of gender-based violence. Additionally, COVID-19 has disrupted child marriage prevention programs. The practice often occurs in financially insecure families.

Working in more than 150 countries, UNFPA is leveraging its 
global presence to support healthcare systems at risk of collapsing. For example, the agency is working with ministries of health, international and national non-governmental organizations, and women’s and youth groups, among others, to prevent gaps in care. In particular, the UNFPA is prioritizing the needs of women and girls in these systems.

Dr. Kanem’s speech addresses UNFPA’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it has had on the health of women and girls.  

The Family of Woman Film Festival originally published a version of this article.

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