South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on women and girls.
Ramaphosa made the remarks at the launch of the 2020 Report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman Every Child.
He noted that governments had been forced to reallocate crucial funds to bolster the fight against the pandemic which has infected more than 12.9 million people and killed over 570,000.
“The health of women has been adversely impacted through this reallocation, particularly in sexual and reproductive health services,” he said.
“There is a real danger that this will contribute to a rise in maternal and newborn mortality, increased unmet need for contraception and an increased number of unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections.”
Earlier, UN’s deputy rights chief Nada Al-Nashif, said that the COVID-19 pandemic was part of a triple threat alongside conflict and climate change, which may force more than 212 million people to depend on humanitarian assistance by 2022. Most of these are expected to be women and girls.
Ramaphosa called for concerted efforts to ensure the pandemic does not widen the inequalities that exist.
“As countries of the world we must ensure this pandemic does not worsen existing inequalities in society or impede the realisation of the rights of women and girls,” he said.
South Africa is Africa’s worst hit country by the COVID-19 pandemic, having reported more than 276,000 infections and over 4,000 fatalities.
Ramaphosa acknowledged that the pandemic was taking a huge toll on Africa, whose health systems already face tough challenges.