Long-standing disparities in sexual and reproductive health are coming into conflict with international responses to the COVID-19 epidemic. Studies reveal that although COVID-19 has had a major, and in some cases devastating, influence on health systems around the world, those whose human rights are least safeguarded, such as refugees, displaced peoples, and populations afflicted by conflict, suffer the most.
Lockdowns and social isolation decreased service provision and, consequently, access to services in some areas. Reduced mobility damaged the informal social safety nets and networks that many women relied on before COVID-19 for assistance and covert access to SRH services. The possibility of getting COVID-19 made visiting hospitals a source of terror for many communities. Particularly, there was a decline in the number of adolescents using sexual health and hygiene services.
During COVID-19, it was inevitable that the IRC’s operation in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh—the location of the biggest refugee colony on earth—would become more difficult. Therefore, International Rescue Committee (IRC) has published an introspective analysis on “Access to sexual and reproductive health services during the COVID-19 pandemic in Cox’s Bazar”. This analysis looks at the overlapping effects of the pandemic on the need for, availability of, and provision of SRH services and preventative measures.
It takes into account the opinions of women, girls, and boys from the Rohingya and host communities, as well as those of service providers (such as frontline health workers, doctors, midwives, etc.) and other important sources of information (e.g., local officials, NGO staff, etc.). In order to make SRH services easier to access and more important during future public health emergencies, it was also designed as a learning exercise.
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Source: International Rescue Committee