BY NHAU MANGIRAZI
ZIMBABWE has been urged to continue investing in sexual reproductive health (SRH) and programmes to end gender-based violence (GBV) which has been on the surge during the COVID-19 period.
This was said by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in a statement yesterday to mark World Population Day, which is celebrated every year on July 11.
UNFPA said COVID-19 had caused serious gaps and challenges in the provision of sexual reproductive health services and information to women and girls.
“Additionally, the reallocation of resources away from these services towards the COVID-19 response may affect the health of many women and girls,” UNFPA said.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on healthcare systems globally and nationally, disrupting the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services.
“At the same time, COVID-19 has exacerbated gender inequities and gender-based violence, with increased incidences of violence under lockdowns.”
They said COVID-19 had laid bare the stark inequalities and weaknesses in healthcare systems within countries.
“The crisis has caused many overstretched health systems to scale back sexual and reproductive health services, which are often not deemed essential,” said UNFPA executive director Natalia Kanem.
She said the strained health systems curtailed the health and well-being of women and girls.
“In Zimbabwe, the pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for UNFPA programming and it became necessary to relook at interventions and become more innovative to continue delivering critical SRH and GBV services for women and young people especially in light of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions,” Kanem said.
UNPFA Zimbabwe country representative Esther Muia said during the COVID-19 lockdown period, the country witnessed a surge in GBV cases.
“In many marginalised and rural communities, women and young people still struggle to access reproductive health services, especially preventive services with family planning, cervical cancer screening and treatment standing out,” she said.
“In addition, the number of maternal deaths in the country remains unacceptably high. GBV remains a huge problem in Zimbabwe affecting at least one in three women and girls, according to the latest Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey. The problem has worsened because of COVID19 and its impact on several dimensions of life.”