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UNFPA's Response

The COVID-19 pandemic is straining public health systems, triggering unprecedented measures by governments around the world, including movement restrictions and shelter-in-place orders. Women are disproportionally represented in the health and social services sectors, increasing their risk of exposure to the disease. Stress, limited mobility and livelihood disruptions also increase women’s and girls’ vulnerability to gender-based violence and exploitation. And if health systems redirect resources away from sexual and reproductive health services, women’s access to family planning, antenatal care and other critical services could suffer.

UNFPA is on the ground, distributing personal protective equipment for health workers and supporting health systems where needed. UNFPA is also supporting efforts to learn more about the virus and its impact to better serve the most vulnerable. “While fear and uncertainty are natural responses to the coronavirus, we must be guided by facts and solid information,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA’s Executive Director. “We must stand together in solidarity, fight stigma and discrimination, and ensure that people get the information and services they need.”

UNFPA has outlined its response in a number of guidance documents available on UNFPA's global site.


Resources and technical briefs

Disease outbreaks affect women and men differently, and pandemics make existing inequalities for women and girls and discrimination of other marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities and those in extreme poverty, worse. This needs to be considered, given the different impacts surrounding detection and access to treatment for women and men.

Women represent 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally and special attention should be given to how their work environment may expose them to discrimination, as well as thinking about their sexual and reproductive health and psychosocial needs as frontline health workers.

Additional information and technical guidance are available at the links below.

COVID-19: A Gender Lens    Global Response Appeal    Modern Contraceptives    GBV and Coronavirus 
Maternal and Newborn Health & COVID-19    Young People & Coronavirus    
Implications of COVID-19 on Census
COVID-19 Technical Brief for Maternity Services   UNFPA Global Response Plan   COVID-19  Frequently Asked Questions

From the Regional Director

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that it is our compassion for one another that drives a higher level of thought leadership, ambition and action. We have learnt to think and act even faster, while juggling many complex and competing demands.

Are we feeling anxious? Yes, we are. Because like most people, we are very concerned.

Are we going to panic? No, we are not. Because we know that we are all in this together – and if we work together, we are stronger.

For me, last week was a week like no other. While telecommuting, I frequently heard the voice of my late father, saying: “Do your very best every day, as you don’t know what tomorrow may bring.” 

I know that tomorrow will bring more infections and more illness, and we still have a long way to go. However, as we rally to respond, it is certain that this pandemic will also bring forth our intrinsic humanity and our collective drive and know-how to beat it.

We are, and must remain, one united family. As part of the UNFPA family, I know for certain we are up to the task that now lies ahead of us. Together, we will succeed.

Dr. Julitta Onabanjo