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New data shows women and children continue to bear the brunt of pandemic health disruption

  • The GFF’s latest data from health facilities shows that 2/3 of countries are reporting COVID-19 -related disruptions to delivery of essential health services such as family planning services, birthing facilities, antenatal care and nutrition packages
  • Healthcare staffing shortages, insufficient medical supplies, and lack of financing are driving continued disruption
  • Urgency of COVID-19 crisis and its collateral damage to women and girls demands bold solutions – as leaders call for urgent and additional investment to prevent long term consequences from teenage pregnancies, stunting from malnutrition, and a rise in infectious diseases

For International Women’s Day 2022

7 March 2022, WASHINGTON D.C. – As the world marks International Women’s Day and more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems in some of the world’s poorest countries face sustained disruption to essential health services, hitting women and children hardest. Services such as access to safe birth facilities, childhood immunisations, and family planning continue to be impacted. This is risking years of progress in improving maternal and child health, widening gender inequality, and weakening already fragile health systems.

Country and community leaders have called on international partners to put women at the center of response and recovery efforts as fears grow that progress on maternal mortality, adolescent pregnancy, and stunting will reverse further.

Data collected since the start of the pandemic showed that during the first year of COVID-19, coverage of lifesaving health interventions for women, children, and adolescents in 36 GFF countries had dropped up to 25 percent due to the disruption of services. Latest data shows that while there has been some improvement, disruptions continue in 2/3 of countries being monitored. The impact of these disruptions is profound and far reaching.

The latest data shows that:

In the last quarter of 2021, 14 out of 18 countries surveyed experienced disruption to reproductive or maternal services[1]:

  • In 7 countries, antenatal care service levels decreased by between 7% and 31%
  • The number of births in health facilities in 5 countries was down by between 11% and 32% – impacting as many as 1/3 of pregnant women
  • The number of women and adolescent girls accessing family planning services was down by between 9% and 23% in 7 countries.

Supply and financing shortages are impacting health facilities:

  • In Liberia, 75% of health facilities are reporting medical supply shortages;
  • 60% of Nigerian health facilities don’t have enough funds for essential health services;
  • More than 50% of Bangladeshi health facilities are reporting staff shortages.

Some countries continue to experience recurrent, large service disruptions coinciding with waves of COVID-19

  • In Nigeria, delivery services were 24% below expected levels, and the service volume of antenatal care was 18% below its expected level in December 2021.

On the supply-side, weak health systems and weak preparedness for the pandemic has meant a lack of healthcare workers, and many resources have been diverted to cope with COVID-19. A shortage of supplies due to supply-chain disruptions has meant that access to key medicines like antibiotics and contraceptives have affected healthcare delivery. On the demand-side, lockdowns and fear of contracting COVID-19 as well as financial hardship has meant that fewer women, children and adolescents can pick up and get the essential services that they need.

Professor Awa Marie Coll Seck, Minister of State, Senegal, said: “Countries had gained a lot during the years before COVID-19 but are now in a situation where a lot of effort and a lot of success to improve maternal and child health is at stake. That is why I am calling partners and countries to support the work of the GFF. They really support countries. They put countries in the driving seat in the response. Women are the backbone of our health systems and our communities. It is critical that the international community works with us to address these major frontline health challenges, to save lives now, and to prevent losing decades of progress our countries made before the pandemic.”

Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development, World Bank, said: “Country leadership should be supported by the global community to address the pandemic and help countries to get back on track with services in support of maternal and child health. Prioritizing services for women and children at the primary care level will benefit all and bring long term advantage. This is why the GFF and the World Bank are working with countries to plug the gaps in health services and strengthen overall health systems even as countries respond to the pandemic. By investing now and in this way, we can transform how primary health is delivered for decades to come.”

Mariama Abdou Gado, medical student and family planning ambassador, Niger, said: “Women represent the majority of the global population, the majority of the health workforce, and young people remain an essential potential for the world. They are all facing massive disruptions to important health services, such as family planning, and nutrition. Now, more than ever, it is right to increase global financing for and keep the momentum, but also to create a world where women and young people and children are safe and healthy.”

The GFF support seeks to balance supporting countries’ immediate needs for COVID-19 tools and delivery, while maintaining essential health services with sustained efforts to adapt and strengthen health systems in tandem with IDA financing.

The GFF aims to raise $1.2 billion by mid-April 2022 to help countries to ‘reclaim the gains’ protect essential health services and strengthen health systems, as countries prepare for the rollout of COVID-19 tools and strive for a resilient and inclusive recovery. The campaign is co-hosted by the governments of Canada and Senegal, along with the World Bank.

Monique Vledder, Head Secretariat, GFF, said: “This latest data once again highlights the urgency to act and the need for strengthening health systems. Two years into the pandemic we are still seeing disruptions. The call to action of focusing our efforts on recovery and preparedness – and putting women and children at the heart of those plans – has never been clearer.”


Contact: Nansia Constantinou; nconstantinou@worldbankgroup.org | +1 202.458.5008

About the Global Financing Facility

The Global Financing Facility (GFF) is a multi-stakeholder partnership of the World Bank that supports country-led efforts to improve the health of women, children and adolescents. With the GFF, countries are making smarter, more prioritized, results-focused investments toward greater impact on the health, nutrition and well-being of women, children and adolescents; building capacity for more sustainable funding for this agenda; and exploring more innovative ways to work with the private sector.

Since the GFF was founded in 2015, partner countries have made significant progress to improve maternal and child health. Learn more here: Annual Report 2020-2021


[1] From data collected between January and September 2021