USAID Acting Administrator Gets It Wrong on COVID-19 Response: Sexual and reproductive health is essential.

The Acting USAID Administrator, John Barsa’s recent letter to UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, is irresponsible not to mention arrogant in demanding that the United Nations remove reference to “sexual and reproductive health” from the Global Humanitarian Response Plan’s (HRP) guidance on COVID-19. 

Access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, pre- and post-natal care, emergency obstetric care, abortion, and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and reproductive cancers, are essential services in the context of a global health emergency that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care will impact women and girls particularly, in the midst of alarming increases in sexual and gender-based violence around the world.  Limited access to healthcare for women and girls in many low- and middle-income countries is already exacerbated by existing U.S. policies, like the Global Gag Rule and the defunding of UNFPA. Demanding that the United Nations follow in the U.S. footsteps and intentionally compromise the health of women and girls by removing sexual and reproductive health from the Global HRP is disturbing and unacceptable.  

The United Nations and World Health Organization are on the right track by providing science-based guidance to countries, including the Humanitarian Response Plan which deems sexual and reproductive health services as essential.  Advocates for Youth supports their efforts and encourages them to reject John Barsa’s scientifically unfounded request and to continue to uphold globally agreed upon commitments to human rights, health, and gender equality by retaining sexual and reproductive health within the HRP.