IPPF condemns the US administration attempts to deny essential sexual and reproductive health to women and girls in humanitarian settings

20th May 2020
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IPPF highly condemns the letter sent by the US Acting Administrator to the UN Secretary-General asking to ‘remove references to "sexual and reproductive health" and its derivatives from the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan, (Global HRP) and drop the provision of abortion as an essential component of the UN’s priorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.'

Deciding whether and when to have children – and having the options and means to act on that decision – is a fundamental human right for all people. Indeed, the ability of a woman or girl to safely decide not to continue through a full pregnancy can save their lives and may be the key that unlocks pursuing education, employment, financial security and good health. Abortion care is health care, saves lives and is essential to the 25 million women who are forced every year to go through an unsafe abortion.

Including sexual and reproductive health and rights as a core part of the response to COVID-19 is fundamental. Women and girls are amongst those being most affected by the pandemic facing restrictions in access to contraceptives, an increasing incidence of sexual and gender-based violence in confinement among many other challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic particularly threatens women living in humanitarian and fragile settings who face increased vulnerability to gender-based violence and abuse including rape and are less likely to access contraception resulting in increased risk of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion.

Denying access to essential life-saving sexual and reproductive health care in humanitarian context including obstetric and newborn care, clinical care for survivors of rape, contraception, safe abortion care and HIV and sexually transmitted infections treatment and prevention, contravenes humanitarian principles and will contribute to increased maternal death and disability.

IPPF’s Director-General Dr Alvaro Bermejo said:

“By undermining the global efforts to control this pandemic and attempt to block sexual and reproductive health, this US administration undermines the ability of women and children around the world to live through COVID-19”.

Fulfilling sexual and Reproductive health and rights is essential for women and girls to have autonomy over their own bodies, to achieve gender equality and ultimately the Sustainable Development Goals.

Kate Gilmore, new chair of the IPPF’s Board says:

“In this moment of global crisis, the 134 Member Associations of the International Planned Parenthood Federation join the progressive and pragmatic voices of the vast majority of countries at the World Health Assembly calling for global solidarity, universal access to health and for prioritising the needs of the people left behind. Attaining the highest possible standard of health keeps being the world’s priority.”

COVID-19 is a global challenge that urges an articulated and coordinated global response led by the World Health Organization. IPPF firmly oppose any attempt to undermine this and proudly support the work of the World Health Organization in providing indispensable support to countries to guarantee health and human rights to all around the world.