Pretoria - A call has been made for governments to make meaningful moves to reinstate women’s health services to pre-Covid-19 levels.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that close to 40% of African countries indicated disruptions to sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services.
The South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has shone a spotlight on the consequences of the disruptions to women’s access to health care, brought about by the pandemic.
It said disruptions to services related to pregnancy and childbirth had dire consequences, especially in South Africa, where there had been a 3.4% rise in perinatal mortality.
On the other hand, a survey of 21 African countries by the WHO found that disruptions to reproductive health supplies had resulted in a 48% decrease in contraceptive use.
A study by the Medical Research Council revealed that the rate of teenage pregnancies in South Africa reportedly rose by 60% across five provinces during the pandemic.
“Provision of safe abortion services, a core component of universal health care, has been severely affected by the pandemic in many countries. With an estimated 25 million women resorting to unsafe abortion methods each year, often with tragic consequences, it is imperative that barriers to access are removed, and services are restored.
“We warn of the potential long-term implications that these disruptions could have on the women, and call on its members and government to heed WHO’s call 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,” the organisation said.
It said the risk of sexual violence faced by women and girls during the pandemic rose owing to increased stresses associated with the lockdown and financial uncertainty.
An analysis in 2021 found that, in African countries, 56% of services to women who had experienced sexual violence had declined further.