Mitigating COVID-19 Impacts on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Low- and Middle-income Countries: A Civil Society Call to Action

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus a global pandemic and called for government action to halt the spread of the virus. To ensure that the failures of past global health crises are not repeated, civil society must advocate for the prioritization of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in government responses to COVID-19, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Women, girls, adolescents and other marginalized communities and their SRHR are especially vulnerable to the virus, and their safety relies on comprehensive local, national and global measures that account for existing gender and social inequalities in order to combat the pandemic.

With ongoing food insecurity, inaccessible clean water, poverty and the potential for increased displacement, violence and conflict, PAI’s partners and their communities are navigating adherence to government orders while meeting their basic needs. In low- and middle-income countries, COVID-19 mitigation measures will not be effective if populations do not have the necessary accurate information, decision-making power and financial means to stockpile food, water and medication during self-isolation and quarantine. The proposed solutions to minimize transmission cannot be successful if they overlook those without access to clean water and those who cannot afford soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. All of these factors are compounded by gender dynamics and other individual, social and structural inequalities.

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