Women, babies at risk as COVID-19 disrupts health services, World Bank warns

LONDON: Millions of women and children in poor countries are at risk because the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting health services they rely on, from neonatal and maternity care to immunisations and contraception, a World Bank global health expert has warned.

Monique Vledder, head of secretariat at the bank's Global Financing Facility (GFF), told Reuters in an interview the agency was gravely worried about the numbers of children missing vaccinations, women giving birth without medical help and interrupted supplies of life-saving medicines like antibiotics.

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FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad

FILE PHOTO: A pregnant Venezuelan migrant woman wearing a face mask is seen inside a bus that migrants hired to reach the Colombian-Venezuelan border, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bogota, Colombia April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

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"We're very concerned about what's happening – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa," Vledder said as she unveiled the results of a GFF survey, one of the first seeking to assess the impact of COVID-19 on women's and children's health.

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"Many of the countries we work in are fragile and so, by definition, already have very challenging situations when it comes to health service delivery. This is making things worse."

From late March, the GFF has conducted monthly surveys with local staff in 36 countries to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on essential health services for women, children and adolescents.

Sharing the survey findings with Reuters, GFF said that of countries reporting, 87 per cent said the pandemic, fears about infection or lockdown measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, had led to disruptions to health workforces.

More than three-quarters of countries also reported disruptions in supplies of key medicines for mothers and babies, such as antibiotics to treat infections and oxytocin, a drug for preventing excessive bleeding after childbirth.

The number of GFF countries reporting service disruptions nearly doubled from 10 in April to 19 in June, and the number reporting fewer people seeking essential health services jumped to 22 in June from five in April.

FILE PHOTO: A child receives a vaccination as part of the start of the seasonal flu vaccination campaign as a preventive measure due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Santiago, Chile March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

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GFF found that in Liberia, for example, fears aRead More – Source