COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS UPDATES:
We're closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and our priority is continuing to deliver care to the women who need us. Click here to read more.

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Our response to the COVID-19 crisis

We stay focused on the women and girls who need us most.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, our priority is continuing to deliver care to the women and girls who need us, while protecting the health and safety of our clients and team members.

But as the emergency facing us becomes increasingly uncertain, our ability to continue to serve some of the world’s most marginalised women with reproductive health services does too. Many of our programmes will be affected. However, as an organisation, we are responding and adapting to this evolving situation and are committed to delivering services to the women who need them.

It is important that national governments define contraception and safe abortion services as essential during the crisis. If not, the consequences would be devastating. Unless action is taken now, we estimate that up to 9.5 million vulnerable women and girls risk losing access to our contraception and safe abortion services in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So we call on governments to ensure that the health of women and girls are not forgotten. And we reiterate our promise to our clients and supporters around the world. Now, as ever, we are tirelessly committed to providing life-changing reproductive health services and we will continue to provide for the women and girls who need us for as long as it is safe to do so. 

Estimated impact on our services

Before the pandemic, our programmes were projected to reach over 15 million women and girls with sexual and reproductive health services in 2020. But as the emergency facing us becomes increasingly uncertain, and more and more countries around the world face restrictions and national lockdowns, our ability to continue to serve some of the world’s most marginalised women with reproductive health services becomes uncertain too.

Our initial projections warn that unless governments act now, between 4 to 9.5 million vulnerable women and girls risk losing access to our contraception and safe abortion services in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences would be devastating. We estimate that across the 37 countries worldwide where we provide contraception and safe abortion, COVID-19 disruptions could lead to an additional: 

  • 1.3 - 3 million unintended pregnancies 
  • 1.2 - 2.7 million unsafe abortions
  • 5,000 - 11,000 pregnancy-related deaths*

These numbers are an estimation of what’s at risk if we deny women access to contraception and safe abortion. We have to work together to ensure that women can access the services they need, now more than ever.

*Methodology for calculating the impact

Stories from the frontline
During the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, women in Sierra Leone were not only at risk due to Ebola: their access to essential and lifesaving reproductive care was also disrupted. This resulted in as many, if not more, pregnancy-related deaths than deaths from Ebola itself.*

Contraception and safe abortion are essential services

Every year, an estimated 22,000 women die from unsafe abortion alone. Evidence shows that when women are denied access to contraception, safe abortion and post-abortion care, maternal mortality rates rise. 

During times of crisis, women's reproductive health needs are often neglected, and the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing already stretched health systems to breaking point. But as the crisis continues to unfold and access to services is removed, women's need for sexual and reproductive health care - including safe abortion - does not subside.

Abortion is an essential and time-sensitive procedure, and any COVID-related delays caused by social distancing, healthcare shutdowns and travel restrictions could have profound impacts on women who want and need a safe abortion. 

With women and girls disproportionately affected by crisis, we must do all we can to ensure women and girls have access to life-saving care. By defining contraception and safe abortion as essential healthcare, and pivoting service provision, for example by delivering services remotely, we can continue to provide access for women and girls, when they need us most. 

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29149310

The [Ebola] crisis led to a spike in the number of teenage pregnancies. People were too afraid to go to hospital or government facilities. If we had stopped providing contraception and post-abortion care, it would have been much worse. … People will always need services, irrespective of an epidemic.
Felix Ikenna, Doctor and Quality Assurance Director, Marie Stopes Sierra Leone

Our response to the crisis

Our commitment to our clients is unwavering. To ensure we can continue to deliver for the women and girls who need us most, we have developed continuity plans across all our programmes. Sensible protocols have been adopted to protect clients and team members to ensure maximum safety and, as much as possible, minimum disruption. And as the COVID-19 situation evolves, so will our organisational and clinical approach to ensuring safe, high quality care.

But as the emergency facing us becomes increasingly uncertain, we call on governments to take their responsibility towards women and girls. We must work in partnership to safeguard access to essential healthcare, including contraception and safe abortion.

In many of the 37 countries where MSI provides services, health systems are struggling to provide safe abortion and contraception under the strain of COVID-19. But there are concrete actions governments can take to ensure access and save women’s lives: from allowing women to access safe abortion and contraception remotely via telemedicine, allowing pharmacies to provide services and removing unnecessary waiting times and the need for multiple doctor sign offs. 

Above all, anti-choice lawmakers must not exploit the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to try to deny women access to abortion and contraception. 

Now more than ever, to save lives, governments worldwide must include the reproductive healthcare women need in the list of essential services.  

More to read

Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 and our response

Stories from the frontline

Read more about the impact of the pandemic on individual country programmes, and what our teams are doing to ensure women can still access essential services.

Stories from the frontline

Read our latest statements and press releases

In a situation that keeps evolving, so will our response and adaptation to it. Please click through to read our latest statements and press releases.

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As the world is facing a global emergency, we need your support.

During these difficult times, our ability to continue to serve some of the worlds most vulnerable and marginalised women is becoming increasingly uncertain. With your support, we can continue to do so.

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