They also expressed concern over the 10 percent proportional global decline in the use of contraceptive methods, due to reduced access.
According to the experts, it would result in an additional 49 million women with unmet needs for family planning.
The experts express these concerns during a webinar titled, “Why access to contraceptives is critical in COVID-19 response”, organized by Development Communications Network (DEVCOMS).
In his presentation, the Chairman of Plateau State Voice for Family Planning and Reproductive Health, Prof. Josiah Mutihir said that COVID-19 has negative impact on access to family planning information and services because the preventive measures that necessitate the restriction of movement, which culminate to ‘partial or total lockdown, has led to the disruption of supply chains of contraceptive commodities.
According to him, the gains in the uptake of modern family planning methods in the country over the years, is likely to be lost during the pandemic with serious short, medium, and long-term consequences.
“Families are compelled to stay home, day, and night for periods of between 1 to 12 weeks depending on the country or state. This has brought the husband and wife or spouses face to face for long periods. Idleness has set in and increased sexual desires and activity results.
“Where the woman is not protected, unwanted pregnancy is the likely outcome in most instances where the woman is still in the reproductive age and is not on any method of contraception.
“Already, there has been the disruption of supply chains of contraceptive commodities, closure of health clinics providing family planning information, counseling, and public fear about visiting health facilities at this time of lockdown.
“The gains in the uptake of modern family planning methods in the country over the years is likely to be lost during the pandemic with serious short, medium, and long-term consequences,” Mutihir said.
He appealed to governments at all levels not to ignore family planning and other health issues, while combating COVID-19, adding that these health issues, if ignored have far-reaching consequences.
“The need for family planning does not disappear during a pandemic and therefore should not be ignored or neglected. Family planning is a life-saving intervention mitigating increased morbidity and mortality resulting from unintended pregnancies.
“Contraceptive access and family planning are essential services and also a human rights issue. Access to family planning services has been limited since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Lockdown and quarantine orders have meant that women, girls, and men are unable to access family planning and RH needs as they cannot leave their homes,” he said.
Mutihir stressed on the need to sustain family planning information provision, available and affordable services, and uptake at this critical period adding that adequate and clear information for the public on family planning methods, using telehealth, particularly the natural/other methods that could be practiced at this time of dire need should be encouraged.
Another stakeholder, Hossy Avong expressed concern over the adolescent and young persons during the lockdown, adding that the nation may see an increase in numbers of unplanned pregnancies and other sexually transmitted infections when the lock-down is over.
Others called for the integration of family planning into existing hospital services like emergency units, delivery units, and immunization units.
“There is a lot of attention on COVID-19 and the government needs to mainstream family planning information into COVID-19, if we do not do that, then we will have a hit number of unplanned pregnancy after the COVID-19 pandemic.”