Healthcare systems for women must be deemed essential – WHO
—maternal health services worldwide affected by pandemic
—COVID-19 positive mothers should still breastfeed
DPI, Guyana, Friday, June 12, 2020
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has noted that while the majority of healthcare and other workers in the COVID-19 pandemic are women, healthcare systems for women worldwide have declined as a result of the disease.
“Seventy percent of health care workers are women. They make up the majority of carers at home, as well as, workers in grocery stores and pharmacies; putting them at high risk of infection,” Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union said during the World Health Organization (WHO) press conference on Friday.
Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) pointed out that with the COIVD-19 pandemic has affected healthcare systems resulting in many pregnant women being cut off from healthcare.
“We are seeing exacerbation of already limited access to health care putting women’s lives and health at risk. UNFPA has shown, that for every six months of curfew, lockdown [and] disruptions, some 47 million women will lose access to contraception, this will result in an additional 7 million unintended pregnancies within the six-month period,” Kanem further stated.
Noting that mothers and children especially from low and middle-income countries are more at risk of complications and death during childbirth with the pandemic limiting maternal health services globally, Kanem called for prioritisation of maternal health.
It was also highlighted that mothers who test positive for (COVID-19) are being encouraged to continue breastfeeding.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s Executive Director of Health Emergencies Programme said the risk of transmission through breastfeeding has not been established as no live RNA has been detected in breastmilk.
COVID-19 positive mothers are expected to follow the WHO’s breastfeeding guidance (http://www.emro.who.int/nutrition/nutrition-infocus/breastfeeding-advice-during-covid-19-outbreak.html) to protect themselves and the infant while breastfeeding.
“We know that children are at relatively low-risk of COVID-19, but are at high risk of numerous other diseases and conditions that breastfeeding prevents. Based on the available evidence, the WHO’s advice is that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19,” Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Moreover, projections show that by 2030 children’s health is expected to significantly decline and swift action must be taken.
“We need to act and act swiftly, by countries making sexual reproductive maternal adolescent and newborn health services universally available and declared essential during the pandemic,” Kanem stated.