The Central Regional Office of the National Population Council (NPC) says women and girls are the hardest hit by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Apart from disrupting the livelihood of women, it has impacted negatively on the access to reproductive health services and led to an increase in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women and girls,” it said.

The statement was made at a stakeholder roundtable in Cape Coast to deliberate on the theme for the ‘World Population Day’ dubbed, “putting the brakes on COVID-19; how to safeguard the health and rights of Women and Girls now.”

The day is celebrated on July 11 every year to create awareness and bring to the fore the importance and implication of population issues on human development.

Mr Augustine Jongtey, the Regional Population Officer, noted that over 37 million girls worldwide lacked access to family planning services due to the impact of COVID-19 and that might lead to over seven million unintended pregnancies.

He indicated that so far there were two million cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and by the year 2030, 13 million cases of Child marriages would have also been recorded.

“This is just to show that indeed Women and Girls are vulnerable to their abusers and they needed to be protected,” he added.

He stressed the need for the choices of Women and Girls on their rights to sexual and reproductive health care to be respected and protected regardless of COVID-19.

Mr Jongtey said there was no doubt that the pandemic had led to an increase in domestic violence and SGBV with the majority of them having unpleasant experiences with their abusers during the lockdown period.

For his Part, Mr Michael Tagoe, the Youth Programme Officer of the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), indicated that the pandemic had increased the rate of SGBV, FGM, teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortions, child marriages and a host of others.

These issues have arisen because of the closure of schools and the lockdown situations, he said, adding that the dependency ratio has grown worse with workers on stand by while others have been fired.

“The PPAG has organized Community outreach programmes to educate all on the preventive measures of the Virus and on how to protect oneself from unwanted pregnancies by delivering free family planning services,” he added.

Mrs Thywill Eyra Kpe, the Regional Director of the Department of Gender, also called on stakeholders to establish direct measures of compensation and economic empowerment for women, including financial assistance and delivery of basic goods and services because they were at higher risk of exposure to the infection during the period.

Mrs Kpe said due to the closure of schools most children were in the care of their younger brothers and friends and they could take undue advantage of them.

They called on parents to take extra care for their wards during these trying times.

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