Covid-19 has already killed 500,000, but a larger health catastrophe looms for women and children

This article was published by Telegraph: 

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of health services in many poorer countries, leaving women and children especially vulnerable.

Governments urgently need to double down on the provision of basic care if years of progress are not to be lost. The worst health crisis in a century has already caused more than 500,000 deaths, but a much larger health catastrophe is looming.

Tens of millions of women and children may die or endure lifelong health impacts because of disruptions to essential health services and the reluctance by patients to seek care for fear of Covid-19 infection.

New data from Somalia, Mali, and Liberia shows up to a 40 per cent reduction in essential health services such as childhood immunisation, antenatal care and safe childbirth.

The Global Financing Facility (GFF) estimates that as many as 26 million women could lose access to contraception across 36 countries, leading to nearly 8 million unintended pregnancies.

More children are missing vaccinations and more women are giving birth without medical help. Our surveys show that in nearly all of our 36 lower-income partner countries, the pandemic has disrupted the ability of health care workers to stay on the job for a number of reasons, including high rates of infection, lack of personal protective equipment, and inability to travel because of lockdown measures.

Three quarters of these countries have also experienced severe shortages of essential medicines like antibiotics for pneumonia, the leading cause of childhood death, and oxytocin, which stops excessive bleeding after childbirth.  Past epidemics foreshadow the potential scale of the danger.

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