A population expert, Professor Stephen Owusu Kwankye, has urged the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and allied stakeholders to heighten their attention on sexual and reproductive health, even as they tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the associate Professor at the Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS), the University of Ghana, Legon, this was because restrictions imposed on citizenry to contain the virus, though necessary, had created a fertile ground for unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortion and birth related issues.
Prof. Kwankye made the call in an interview with the Ghanaian Times on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s population, following the imposition of restrictions to help check the spread of the virus.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on March 15, imposed restrictions, including a ban on social gatherings, closure of borders and schools and a partial lockdown of Accra, Kumasi and Kasoa.
The lockdown, which lasted three weeks, was, however, lifted on April 19, but the ban on social gatherings has been extended to the end of May.
Following this, the Executive Director of the National Population Council, Dr Leticia Adelaide Appiah, told TV3 that about 9,000 unwanted pregnancies were recorded during the three weeks partial lockdown.
Though Prof. Kwankye could not independently confirm the figure, he said it was a testament of the situation at hand, saying “once [people] are home, definitely the figure [of unplanned pregnancies] will go up”.
In his view, although the fight against the virus was significant, its repercussion on reproductive health and the country’s population at large should not be lost on health authorities.
“Education on and access to these services, must continue and be increased. We do not have to only focus on COVID-19, but they should let people know they can access other services”, Prof. Kwankye said.
Explaining why unplanned pregnancies would increase, he said due to the restriction of movements, families would be forced to spend more time together and this would heighten intimacy and result in unplanned sex.
Prof. Kwankye opined that some of these pregnancies would be terminated through unsafe and unorthodox means, especially in the case of students, who were home because of the closure of schools, and also unmarried people.
“If your desire is to continue school, stay safe. The fact that you are home does not mean you will not go back to school. Avoid unprotected sex and concentrate on the fact that you will go back to school to continue your education”, he said.
Prof. Kwankye, underscored the need for hospitals to make antenatal care accessible so that expectant mothers do not miss out on medical care otherwise room would be created for maternal and infant mortality.
BY JONATHAN DONKOR