Young people have sex. And that won’t stop during a pandemic. “It doesn’t for adults, so why would it for young people?” says Ngong Jacqueline Shaka, a clinical doctor in Cameroon.

Dr. Shaka says the pandemic has highlighted existing issues in how health systems treat young people, especially around sexual and reproductive health and rights. Even though young people seem to be less affected by COVID-19’s physical symptoms, this pandemic is still taking a much larger toll on communities, like the young, that were already marginalized in ways that highlight how health systems around the world were underprepared and unequal.

Young people have often reported challenges in obtaining contraceptives, and those challenges have been amplified as countries mobilize their limited health resources to stem the spread of COVID-19. While battling the pandemic, they are also attempting to sustain basic services, including sexual and reproductive health services.

In many cases, Dr. Shaka says, young people have been overlooked in countries’ responses to COVID-19. There is little or no acknowledgment of their particular vulnerabilities and little that guarantees their access to a full range of contraceptive options during the crisis.

Experiences with similar crises, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, suggest that COVID-19 will make young people vulnerable to unintended pregnancy, in part because they will not be able to obtain a contraceptive method from a health facility due to risk of transmission or infection, or sometimes health system breakdowns.

Additionally, young people are at increased risk of sexual violence during crises, including pandemics, which also increases the risk of unintended pregnancies. Domestic violence against women around the world has increased — in some countries by up to 30% — because women spend more time with their abusers during lockdowns.

Read the full article about sexual health crisis at United Nations Foundation.