As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise globally and threaten to overwhelm life-saving health services, the survival of mothers and children is at significant risk. According to Lancet Global Health, there is evidence on the potential rise in maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries if essential health services are disrupted as a direct result of COVID-19. 1Building on lessons learned from the previous outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (EVD) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), there is a possibility of a devastating increase in the numbers of maternal and child deaths resulting from reductions in routine health service coverage.

Left unattended, these reductions (due to, for example, disruptions in medical supply chains or the availability of human and financial resources) and declines in the uptake of health services by communities fearful of infection will be more devastating to mothers and children than COVID-19 itself. The projection of an additional 1.2 million child deaths and 56,700 maternal deaths in 118 countries is alarming if coverage of essential services drops by around 45 percent for six months.2 This is also avoidable if we act now. Society for Disease Prevention, Inc. assists those in dire need of help due to the damage caused by the current pandemic. We have partnered with various local health facilities in these countries to provide life-saving healthcare services for everyone. We are actively working to prevent or minimize further spread of COVID -19 and treat those who are already seek. We are also working to address the effects of the policy responses aimed at reducing the spread—including maintaining routine health services, especially for all children and mothers, ensuring continuity of learning, keeping mothers and children safe and protected from violence, scaling up social protection to keep children and families safe.

There is overwhelming evidence showing the negatives effects of COVID-19 and the unprecedented measures to contain it globally on maternal and child health. As you may already know, children are at risk not only of infection but also for losing or being separated from their family members and caregivers. Mothers and children are often affected by the disruption of essential preventative and curative support and supplies, resulting from suspensions in services and transportation systems and financial constraints.3,4

Constrained access to clinics, schools, social workers, and sanitation is a particular threat to the most vulnerable populations. The lack of child protection and broader social services is particularly harmful to women and children in desperate need of safety.

As a global community, overcoming the pandemic’s undesirable effects will require a focus on six critical areas of action and investment. First and foremost, we must keep children healthy as well as well-nourished by providing supplies and protective equipment that must reach health workers and affected communities. At the same time, life-saving maternal, newborn, and child health services, routine vaccinations, and access to HIV treatment must be maintained.

Second, we must urgently priorities funding and support for maintaining and strengthening water, sanitation, and hygiene. Our organization provides free portable water in low and middle-income countries. Not only will this sustain life, but clean, portable water prevents various infectious diseases such as cholera, legionella, hepatitis, etc. when there is a joint effort to promote this project, the world becomes a safer place for everyone. No matter how little your donation is, it will go a long way in saving lives.

Third, learning and connectedness among children must be maintained, and support must be given to governments to provide no-technology, low-technology, and digital solutions.

Fourth, we must recognize parents and families as essential front-line workers. They need support through social protection measures that include cash and nutrition support. Fiscal response packages must also target women and children.

Fifth, services to prevent and address gender-based violence, including counseling and support, must be designed and delivered; these services should be designated as essential. The current crisis makes women and children even vulnerable to violence.

Finally, we must not forget about refugees and migrant children affected by conflict. An effective COVID-19 response is one that includes all children in a country, regardless of their status.

As we think through new and innovative ways to support children and their families, it is encouraging to see that many local initiatives have already begun. These initiatives push us all to consider the new opportunities this crisis creates for communities to recover better, build a more robust system, and orient these services to reach all rich and poor people. A long term thinking like this can help us prevent further loss of life from COVID-19 and reduce the effects of the global recession while making progress towards the healthier, more equitable, resilient and sustainable future as envisioned in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Resources

  • Robert T, Carter ED, Chou VB, et al. Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modeling study. Lancet Global Health 2020; published online 12. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30229-1.
  • United Nation. Policy brief: the impact of COVID-19 on children. April 15 2020

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