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

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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – Millions of women and children in poor countries are at risk because of the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting the health services they depend on, newborn babies and maternity care for vaccinations and contraception, the World Bank, the World Bank, health specialist warned.

Monique Vledder, head of the World Bank secretariat, the Financing Facility (GFF), told Reuters in an interview with the agency that he was gravely worried about the number of children, the lack of a vaccine, the women to give birth without medical help and interruptions in the production of drugs such as antibiotics.

“We are very concerned about what is happening – especially in sub-Saharan Africa,” Vledder said she has released the results of a GFF investigation, one of the first seeking to assess the impact of COVID-19 on women and children’s health.

“Many of the countries in which we work are fragile and therefore, by definition, already in the most difficult situations when it comes to providing health services. It’s making things worse. “

Beginning in late March, the GFF 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.

Share the survey results with Reuters, GFF said that of country reports, 87% said the pandemic, fears about infection or blocking measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, has leads to occupational health disturbances.

More than three-quarters of countries have also reported disruptions in the supply of essential medicines for mothers and babies, such as antibiotics to treat infections and oxytocin, a medicine to prevent excessive bleeding after childbirth.

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

GFF found that in Liberia, for example, fears about COVID-19 prevent parents from taking their children to health clinics. In Ghana, some pregnant women and nursing mothers have been opting to postpone antenatal care services and routine immunizations for fear of contracting the pandemic of the disease.

“We are seeing a drop in childhood immunization rates. We see women accessing less ante or postnatal services. We are witnessing a decline in babies who are born in health facilities. And we also see a slide in the outpatient departments – for treatments for diarrhea, malaria, fever, pneumonia for example, ”Vledder said.

A rapid decline in access to reproductive health products is also one of the main concerns, Vledder added. The GFF estimates that if the situation does not improve as much as 26 million women could lose access to contraception in 36 countries, leading to almost 8 million unintended pregnancies.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Joséphine Mason and Alex Richardson)

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