News Analysis

Population Day: Women, Girls’ Need for Sexual and Reproductive Health Amidst Covid-19

World Population Day is celebrated on the 11th of July every year. It aims to increase people’s awareness on various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.

The day, which seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, was established by the then-governing council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989.

This year’s World Population Day calls for global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.

The largest countries in the world in terms of population are China and India, with both countries now having populations of well over a billion; the United States comes in third with just under 325 million residents.

According to Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data, the current population of Nigeria is over two hundred and six million as of Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

The theme for this year’s celebration is to raise awareness of women’s and girls’ needs for sexual and reproductive health and vulnerabilities during the pandemic.

No doubt, the covid-19 crisis has taken a staggering toll on people, communities and economies everywhere. Women, who account for the largest share of front-line health workers, for example, are disproportionately exposed to the coronavirus.

As countries are on lockdown and health systems struggle to cope, sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined and gender-based violence is on the rise.

A recent research conducted by United Nations Population Fund highlighted that if the lockdown continues for six months with major disruptions to health services, then forty seven million women in low- and middle-income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives resulting in seven million unintended pregnancies.

Also, thirty one million additional cases of gender-based violence can also be expected, while there is a great tendency of two million cases of female genital cutting and thirteen million child marriages between 2020 and 2030.

Now is the time for the Federal Government to underscore the importance of accurate population data not only for development, but also for addressing the nation’s health emergencies, such as covid-19.

The various programmes of the federal government at putting smiles on the faces of vulnerable women in the Covid-19 era should be commended and there is need to intensify efforts at letting the programmes reach every woman at the grassroots.

Governments need up-to-date knowledge of population densities in major cities, as these are locations of higher transmission of the virus.

There must be measures to address gender-based violence and child protection in covid-19 response and recovery plans and ensure that plans are gender and age responsive.

All stakeholders including the girl- and youth-led groups should be safely and meaningfully involved in the development of plans, which will put an end to the various challenges facing women and girls.

Olaolu Fawole

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