Disruption Of Maternal & Child Health Services Could Cause More Deaths Than COVID-19

A severe disruption of reproductive and children’s health services during the pandemic could cause more deaths in women, children, and adolescents than COVID-19 itself,  according to World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“The indirect effects of COVID19 on this group may be greater than the number of deaths due to the virus itself,” warned Dr Tedros. “Because the pandemic has overwhelmed health systems in many places, women may have a heightened risk of dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.”

As health facilities pivot towards providing COVID-19 care, reports of women unable to reach childbirth facilities have emerged in countries like Peru. Many maternity hospitals have also shut down.   

“Maternity and child health services are not functioning, or only partially functioning in over 150 locations around the world. Many thousands could die from preventable complications in childbirth and pregnancy,” said Executive Director for the UN Family Population Fund (UNFPA) Natalia Kanem.

Amidst the scarcity of health services, unintended pregnancies and child marriages could shoot up, as women, children, and adolescents lose access to health programmes. For every six months of lockdown, some 47 million women could lose access to contraception, leading to 7 million more unintended pregnancies. 

With people stuck at home during lockdowns, domestic violence has also shot up, as survivors quarantine with their abusers. 

“It’s truly an emergency pandemic within the pandemic,” said Kanem. “We are joining WHO to sound a ‘red alert’ to stop gender based violence – to offer timely assistance to women and girls who are now trapped in abusive situations.”  

Image Credits: Twitter: @Atayeshe.