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June 29, 2020

Healthcare concerns

Editorial

 
June 29, 2020

According to a World Bank global health expert, Monique Vledder, head of the secretariat at the bank’s Global Financing Facility, the challenge posed by Covid-19 has also translated into children missing vaccinations, women forced to give birth without medical help and the pandemic disrupting the chain of lifesaving medicines like antibiotics and others needed to treat newborns and mothers. The situation is said to be particularly grave in Sub Saharan Africa where the impact of Covid-19 on the health of women and children is severe. Many of the countries in this region already have poor healthcare systems and the GFF monthly survey in 36 countries shows that the coronavirus has had a severe impact on the health services available to women and children in 19 of these. Fears about Covid-19 and lockdown measures have also led to health teams not reaching patients. Essential drugs have also vanished because of disruptions in the chain of supply. Countries which had reported disruptions in services due to Covid-19 almost doubled from 10 in April to 19 in June and 22 nations have reported that fewer people are receiving healthcare. In Liberia, Ghana and other countries, parents are scared to take their children into clinics for vaccinations while lactating mothers are choosing to postpone antenatal care and routine immunisation because of Covid-19 fears.

The declining rate of vaccinations among children is a major concern for those engaged in primary care in these countries, as is the number of babies being born without the availability of medical care. The GFF has estimated that up to 26 million women will lose access to contraception in 36 countries, leading to nearly eight million unintended pregnancies. This is not a situation we are entirely unfamiliar with. While few studies exist, lady health workers and lady health visitors who provide the main portion of care to women and children in rural areas will undoubtedly be handicapped by travel restrictions, and also the fear of visiting households where Covid may exist. This is also true of the recipients. Many major hospitals are turning away all patients except those suffering from Covid, with the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar shutting down its giant maternity unity, leaving women with few options to choose to deliver their babies. The worst affected has been the polio programme in the country. It is for this and many other associated issues that we need to double down and flatten the curve of Covid-19 as fast and as safely as we can. We cannot go on like this forever, and hope and pray for a miracle to fix it all. This pandemic needs to be tackled with as much energy as is possible. Otherwise, we are in danger of losing people to other diseases as well, in the absence of proper healthcare systems.