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Every year, millions of girls around the world are subjected to practices that harm them physically and emotionally, with the full knowledge and consent of their families, friends, and communities, according to the State of World Population 2020, released today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

At least 19 harmful practices, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing, are considered human rights violations, according to the UNFPA report, which focuses on the three most prevalent ones: female genital mutilation, child marriage, and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons.

We have the power to defy the forces that perpetuate harm and to realize a world where every woman and girl is free to chart her own future.

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Every year, millions of girls around the world are subjected to practices that harm them physically and emotionally, with the full knowledge and consent of their families, friends, and communities, according to the State of World Population 2020, released today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

At least 19 harmful practices, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing, are considered human rights violations, according to the UNFPA report, which focuses on the three most prevalent ones: female genital mutilation, child marriage, and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons.

We have the power to defy the forces that perpetuate harm and to realize a world where every woman and girl is free to chart her own future. To find out more, please check the State of World Population Report.

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It is anticipated that that COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus named SAR-CoV-2) will occur in most, all countries. A key fact about COVID-19 is that the vast majority of infections will result in very mild or no symptoms. Not everybody is at risk of severe disease. Persons of advancing age and those with existing respiratory, cardiac and/or metabolic disorders and immunodeficiencies are at higher risk of moderate to severe disease.

Limited data are available on COVID-19 in pregnancy, but the studies published to date do not show an increased risk of severe disease in late pregnancy or substantial risk to the newborn. These findings are reassuring, and are quite different from other recent pandemics, like the 2009 H1N1 influenza A pandemic which resulted in more severe disease in pregnant women, or Zika virus which is teratogenic. Information on the impact of COVID-19 on early pregnancy outcomes remains unavailable at the time of writing. Non-pregnant women of childbearing age are also at low risk of severe disease.

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Girls and women with disabilities constitute a group that encounters more difficulties in obtaining access to age-adapted and reliable information and services with respect to reproductive and sexual health than many other groups. It was also noted that the number of women with disabilities in OECD countries is higher than the number of men with disabilities.

Considering the worldwide gender inequalities, it is clear that access by women and girls with disabilities to the mechanisms for combating gender-based violence is also difficult. For this reason, the reassessment of sexual and reproduction ve health programs that also account for disability and gender factors within their overall framework of needs is a must.

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UNFPA focuses on human rights, health and protection of older persons in light of COVID-19, and this document highlights relevant initiatives underway in offices worldwide. Responding to the rights and needs of older persons is fully in line with one of the accelerators of the UNFPA COVID-19 Global Response Plan, i.e. to leave no one behind.

The document underscores UNFPA’s role in supporting the UN COVID-19 response at the country level, under the leadership of the United Nations Resident Coordinator system and the World Health Organization (WHO). UNFPA also supports civil society to advocate for older persons’ participation in the policy arena, and for their voices to be heard in preparedness and response to a crisis in which they are the most affected.

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Globally, there is a lack of understanding about the importance of midwives in helping women to have a safe birth. In some countries, midwifery still struggles to achieve recognition as an autonomous profession. Moreover, poor employment policies and conditions can make the work of a midwife incredibly challenging. 

Advocacy -the act of supporting a cause to effect change- within this context aims to improve social, political and economic conditions of midwives and the overall welbeing of society through certain methods including, but not limited to, strategic planning, cooperation with media and governments, as well as effective social media usage. 

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COVID 19 is likely to impact midwives and midwifery services as health resources get diverted and maternity units shut down. Midwives must show resilience, courage to continue to serve women and their newborns. They are central to the delivery of quality sexual and reproductive healthcare services and enabling women to lead productive, healthy lives. They also help fulfill the right to health and to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Midwives play a vital role in the gender equality movement too. Everyday, midwives, in every part of the work are upholding women’s rights to quality, and midwife-led care throughout the childbirth continuum. They work with women every day, partnering together with them in their care during the childbirth continuum while showing great resillience and courage in countries facing humanitarian emergencies.

Within this scope, UNFPA applauds and hails the work of all midwives and pledges to stand by them and work with national governments to protect them during COVID-19.

UNFPA's recent record pack concerning midwifes and their contribution during the ongoing COVID19 pandemic also covers policy suggestions for policy makers, suggested social media message and includes critical data and results of scientific publications.

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COVID-19 pandemic severely threatens women's health as health systems become overloaded, facilities close or only provide a limited set of services to women and girls, and many choose to skip important medical checkups through fear of contracting the virus. Global supply chain disruptions may also lead to significant shortages of contraceptives and gender-based violence is expected to soar as women are trapped at home for prolonged periods.

Key projections include an elevated number of gender-based violence cases against women, increase in the number of women who cannot access modern contraceptive methods which lead to unintented pregnancies, disruption of efforts to end child marriage potentially ending up with millions of new child marriage cases and disruption of programmes to prevent female genital mutilation.

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The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes the largest global public health crisis in a century, with daunting health and socioeconomic challenges. As the UN Secretary-General ' noted, this “is the greatest test that we have faced since the formation of the United Nations”. Governments are taking unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the virus, ramping up health systems and restricting the movement of millions. The pandemic has already severely disrupted access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health services. It is worsening existing inequalities for women and girls, and deepening discrimination against other marginalized groups. Sexual and reproductive health and rights is a significant public health issue that demands urgent and sustained attention and investment.

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Companies need to make radical changes in their approaches to business during COVID-19 outbreak. Applying working from home policy is the primary goal to ensure health and protection of all employees in this period. It should be also kept in mind that the burden of domestic and care work affect women drastically and the employers need to make sure that the workers maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Moreover, supply chains undergo strains from the pandemic response which may further endanger the sexual and reproductive health of the employee. Private sector also should be aware of the specific needs of certain groups who are at high risk of coronavirus, primarily being elderly and those with chronic diseases.

UNFPA makes critical recommendations for those in various sectors, including hospitality, textile, logistics and many more, in terms of how private sector can make a difference for community during this period. 

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