The Trump administration’s decision to halt US funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) during the pandemic has met complete rejection from all experts and organizations working to protect public health and human rights. Obviously, the funding cuts imperil global efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives in the US and overseas. But Trump’s defunding plan also hinders the WHO’s work to support public health in low-resource settings, including health and safety measures to protect women and girls.
Access to reproductive health services have been limited since the beginning of the pandemic. Lockdown and quarantine orders have meant that women and girls are unable to access reproductive health care. COVID-19 is exacerbating social inequalities, making meeting women’s essential health needs more difficult than ever.
Now that women and health promoters cannot leave their homes, WHO recommends the use of digital tools for sharing self-care and family planning information. Hesperian’s Family Planning app helps women think through family planning decisions, on their own or with remote support from a counselor. The app includes interactive exercises for birth control counseling and a “method-choosing” tool to help women select the best contraception for their individual needs.
It is also crucial to address the rise in gender-based violence that is increasing during this pandemic. Last week, Hesperian hosted a webinar with Sister AID Liberia (SALI) to discuss initiatives to protect the safety of women stuck at home with their aggressors. SALI, which helped field-test Health Actions for Women, shared their experience so far with stopping cycles of violence.
The US government’s plan to halt WHO funding will make a disaster worse. It will increase the harm spread by COVID-19 and further jeopardize the health of women and girls. We are doing what we can to support people’s health by making our materials accessible in many formats and languages, and partnering with grassroots organizations that can further expand our reach. Let us know what you are doing to prevent women’s access to healthcare from becoming a casualty of the war against COVID.