Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
The impact of the pandemic are exacerbated for women. Pixabay

As the world at large continues to lose people to the rising Covid-19 toll, the impact of the pandemic is exacerbated for women and girls. Restrictive social norms and global lockdowns have limited women’s ability to access health services as well as make them more susceptible to health risks and violence, says a population expert, adding that the outbreak will likely not have a major impact on India’s population projections in the next few years.

IANSlife spoke to Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India (PFI), a national NGO that works at the grassroots level with frontline health workers and rural communities on issues pertaining to the sexual health of women, reproductive health of all and use of contraceptives. Excerpts:


Q: Sexual and reproductive health has taken a backseat during the pandemic. With unplanned pregnancies, little maternity facilities, and lack of contraception, how will this reflect on the population trends of India?

A: Evidence from past epidemics have shown that the emergency response leads to the diversion of resources from routine health care services towards containing and responding to the outbreak. These re-allocations constrain already limited access to sexual and reproductive health services, such as clean and safe deliveries, contraceptives, and pre- and post-natal health care.

A similar trend is currently being observed in the aftermath of Covid-19 and lockdown measures. There have been several media reports quoting government sources stating that there has been an almost 40 percent decline in institutional deliveries in several states as a result of the lockdown. This data is however not available in the public domain.

Also Read: COVID-19 May Increase Risk of Blood Clots in Pregnant Women: Researchers

Findings from a five-state study commissioned by Population Foundation of India to assess the impact of Covid-19 on young people, particularly young women and girls, suggest that nearly half (50 percent) or more of frontline workers (ASHAs and ANMs) reported that women were not accessing ante-natal care services. Results from another three-state study by PFI indicate that young people in UP, Bihar, and Rajasthan reported an unmet need for reproductive health services, sanitary pads during the lockdown.


Not all women have access to health care. Pixabay

A recent study by FRSHI India estimated that 26 million couples in India will have no access to contraceptives due to the disruption of family planning services due to the lockdown. Another study by IPAS has forewarned that nearly 2 million women will be unable to access abortion services in the near future due to Covid-19.

The long-term implications of the limited availability of essential health services, including sexual and reproductive health services could be severe. UNICEF NH has estimated that India would have the highest number of forecast births, at 20 million, in the nine months span dating from when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

Q: India has a fairly young population, which is also a reason why the death toll is less. Is the demographic dividend coming to our aid?

A: It must be noted that mortality rates for those infected amongst the aged in India have also been low. Unlike many developed countries that have reported a staggering number of infections in old age homes, older people in India mostly live at home and not in old age homes. This has accounted for a lower risk of Covid-19 related mortality along with the fact that we are largely a young nation.

While older people and people with existing comorbidities such as asthma, diabetes, and heart conditions are more susceptible to becoming severely ill with Covid-19, WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves as anyone, regardless of their age, can be infected by Covid-19, given the highly contagious nature of the disease.


The Pandemic is making it hard for people, especially girls to access basic facilities. Pixabay

While the need of the hour is to combat Covid-19, this must not be done at the expense of other essential health priorities. In order to leverage our demographic dividend, we must invest in their health and well-being. There is a need to ensure uninterrupted provision of reproductive health services and step up investments in family planning. Studies from across the globe have revealed that investing in family planning is one of the most cost-effective public health measures and a development “best buy”.

Women form half of India’s population and policies and public health efforts have not addressed the gendered impact outbreaks in the past. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, the impact of Covid-19 are exacerbated for women and girls. Restrictive social norms and global lockdowns have limited women’s ability to access health services as well as make them more susceptible to health risks and violence. Multiple responsibilities have also put a severe strain on their mental health. Going forward, we need effective solutions to ensure that women’s health is adequately prioritized if we truly want to leverage India’s demographic dividend.

Q: At the time of speaking, the death toll is 35K+ for India. How do you see Covid-19 altering India’s population projections for the next few years?

A: According to the WHO, most people who get Covid-19 have mild or moderate symptoms and will recover from it. Therefore, going by the existing evidence, it is highly unlikely that Covid-19 would have a major impact on India’s population projections for the next few years. (IANS)


Popular

Photo by Briana Tozour on Unsplash

According to the World Health Organization, in 2020 itself, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer in the world.

Over the last one-and-a-half-year, people have been vocal about both mental and physical health in relationships. Even while miles away from one another, people kept checking on the health and well-being of their loved ones. However, one issue, i.e., breast cancer has been affecting women throughout the world, and it still needs much more focus and attention.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2020 itself, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer in the world. A report published by National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) estimates that breast cancer cases are likely to increase by nearly 20 per cent. Throughout the world, the tenth month of the year is recognized as the month of "Pink October" to raise awareness about breast cancer. The month should also be a celebration of encouraging the women in our lives to take the first step in this journey of staying in "Pink of Health". happen, an international dating app, conducted an in-app survey to understand how Indians discuss health issues like breast cancer with their partners. The survey gave a glimpse of whether health issues are impacting the life and relationships of singles.

41 per cent of users are not aware of examinations related to women's health


Forty-one per cent of users shared that they did not encourage the women in their life (mother, sister, friend, etc.) to go for checkups for issues related to health. Sixteen per cent of the respondents confessed that they did not remind women in their life to take examinations for their own health. It is important to note that regular self-examination is likely to detect breast lumps early. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. If it is detected in time, it will be cured in nine out of 10 cases.

Keep Reading Show less
VOA

Saudi Aramco engineers and journalists look at the Hawiyah Natural Gas Liquids Recovery Plant, June 28, 2021, in Hawiyah, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

One of the world's largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia, announced Saturday it aims to reach "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, joining more than 100 countries in a global effort to try and curb man-made climate change.

The announcement, made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in brief scripted remarks at the start of the kingdom's first-ever Saudi Green Initiative Forum, was timed to make a splash a little more than a week before the start of the global COP26 climate conference being held in Glasgow, Scotland.

Keep Reading Show less
VOA

Apple's App Store app is seen on a smartphone in Baltimore, March 19, 2018.

Apple has updated its App Store rules to allow developers to contact users directly about payments, a concession in a legal settlement with companies challenging its tightly controlled marketplace.

According to App Store rules updated Friday, developers can now contact consumers directly about alternate payment methods, bypassing Apple's commission of 15 or 30%.

Keep reading... Show less