A nurse in Benin, West Africa, provides family planning counseling. Around the world, such health services may be disrupted because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Ollivier Girard/UNFPA
April 28 (UPI) -- The COVID-19 pandemic's economic and physical toll could be disastrous for the health, safety and human rights of women and girls, a U.N. organization's experts estimated Tuesday.
Among the key projections, 2 million female genital mutilation cases could occur that otherwise wouldn't due to COVID-19 disruptions of programs to prevent the practice.
The United Nations Population Fund, formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, also said 13 million child marriages could occur due to disruption of efforts to end them.
"This new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally," UNFPA's Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said in a statement.
Other predictions were based on coronavirus lockdowns ranging from three to at least six months.
If lockdowns continue for at least six months, UNFPA predicts 31 million additional cases of gender-based domestic violence. An additional 15 million cases of such violence are expected in half that time.
Domestic violence against women and girls has already showed signs of surge across the world amid the pandemic with reported cases increasing along with calls to domestic violence hotlines.
The new UNFPA analysis predicts disruptions in domestic violence programs and increased economic stress because of the pandemic could contribute to an increase in violence.
UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
If disruptions to family planning services continue for six months, 47 million women worldwide could lack access to "modern contraceptives," which could result in 7 million unintended pregnancies, UNFPA estimated.
"The pandemic is deepening inequalities, and millions more women and girls now risk losing the ability to plan their families and protect their bodies and their health," Kanem said. 'Women's reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded at all costs. The services must continue; the supplies must be delivered; and the vulnerable must be protected and supported."
A health worker with the Israeli national emergency service, Magen David Adam, wears protective gear while taking swabs to test for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing center in East Jerusalem on August 26. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo