The link between COVID-19 and reproductive health may seem far-fetched but it’s actually a thin lining and this calls for the need to put mitigation measures in place when it’s still possible!
Globally, pregnant women are vulnerable and susceptible to most communicable diseases, what is worse the effects of the corona virus and side effects of treatment in pregnant women is still unknown.
Unlike previous epidemics like Zika virus, where sexual and mother transition were well known, research is still establishing all potential transmission routes for COVID-19 in addition to the already known, a reason containing the virus is still challenging technology experts, despite the precautions like hand washing, using sanitizers and masks in place.
What is true right now is that we are likely to see a shortage of essential SRHR commodities and medicines such as Contraceptives, ARVs, and Antibiotics for treatment of STIs due to disruptions in the supply chain. China is the second largest exporter of pharmaceutical products globally yet several drug-manufacturing plants in the world largest economy have been shut down!
Health care providers in countries already affected by Corona virus are being diverted to respond to the pandemic, at the same time they are most at risk of infection and death.
Some health care providers have perhaps chosen to abandon duty for fear of infection and thus causing scarcity of clinicians especially those that can quickly respond to sexual reproductive health needs like Safe abortion, Post abortion care, Childbirth etc. The fact that no known treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 has been established, the shortage of clinicians will most likely spread world over, well everyone treasures life, to some extent they will most likely to stay home!
In most instances sexual reproductive health needs are often not considered emergencies, this may increase waiting time for patients in need of a service, in low developed countries like Uganda where there is already a shortage of health workers, this will put an extreme strain on the capacity to serve patients especially for non- emergence care, but who determines emergency anyway? The patient of course, if I need a drug or service then it is an emergency to me.
In an analysis published by Guttmacher institute, financial resources are already being diverted to respond to COVID-19, which will take away funding from other sectors including reproductive health programs thus affecting patients who rely on free and affordable sexual reproductive health services and products like condoms, Oral contraceptives etc, many people must be stocking up with this outbreak but how long can the stocks last? This predicts shortage of some reproductive health commodities.
According to a report published by Laura Hurley, the Programme advisor, Safe abortion fund it is possible that in places where people are required to self-isolate due to the virus, they will most likely lack reliable access to contraception leading to unprotected sexual activity, which could increase unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions . Laura further assures women of the organization’s commitment to ensuring women access safe abortion services through their local partners.
Research shows that during self-isolation and quarantine, Cases of rape and domestic violence are most likely to increase due to forced quarantine .
In addition, people seeking sexual reproductive health services like antenatal, HIV/AIDS testing and drugs may choose to stay at home for fear of getting in contact with an infected person. In the long run the Sexual reproductive Health and Rights sector will, just like any other sector be directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and this will affect SRH indicators.
Article written by Nabaasa Innocent, Freelance journalist