With global pandemic ripping the countries of its economy, the mothers, newborns, children adolescents are losing about 20 per cent of their health services, according to a study by a group of health experts.
“While older people are most likely to be directly affected by COVID-19, the indirect effects on pregnant women, newborns, young children and adolescents are huge. Health services and social and financial support for them are simply crumbling, including as a result of closures and constraints,” said the report by the United Nation’s Independent Accountability Panel.
It said that coronavirus pandemic was making the situation worse as the countries were diverting resources away from essential services or by pushing through retrogressive legislation.
Pointing out that several countries did not have the required International Health Regulations (IHR) core capacities or health service coverage to respond fully to coronavirus, the report said that many of the countries were pulling back on abortion laws, restricting sexual and reproductive health and rights education, using border closings and lockdowns to allow legally dubious, hardline migration policies and legislation to censor the media and public protests.
It said that there were reports of mass and worldwide closures of both static and mobile reproductive health clinics and scaling down of sexual and reproductive health services. This includes HIV testing and post-abortion care. It also mentions about a survey of 30 countries where it was found that 73 per cent of health workers cited shortages of sanitary products. While about 58 per cent noted price hikes, another 50 per cent reported reduced access to clean water to help manage menstrual hygiene.
The report also points out that lockdowns, restrictions on movement, diverting health workers from maternity to COVID-19 units, limiting availability of life-saving services for pregnant women and newborns have impacted badly.
Independent Accountability Panel notes that immunization campaigns were halted that had left least 13.5 million children unprotected against life-threatening diseases. Moreover, the school closure also left 370 million children without meals.
Another horrifying fact that has been pointed out is on the rise of deaths among pregnant women and young children. They said that eight per cent to 45 per cent higher than would have occurred in the absence of the pandemic.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPOT
- Disruption to contraceptive supplies could lead to 15 million more unintended pregnancies in low and middle-income countries
- For every 3 months of lockdown, 15 million more cases of gender-based violence are anticipated.
- Two million additional cases of female genital mutilation
- 13 million more child marriages are estimated over the coming 10 years
- An estimated 40-60 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty,27 with women and children disproportionately affected
- United States spends more than twice as much on health than either Japan or France, yet children in the US are more likely to die before their fifth birthday33 and women are more than twice as likely to die in childbirth
- Women, children and adolescents are far more likely to die in countries affected by fragility and conflict situations than in other countries.
The IAP has come out with several suggestions to reverse the downward turn and accelerate progress towards the 2030 targets. It has highlighted four pillars – Commit, Justify, Implement and Progress for meeting the target. .