Virus Care Disruptions Raise Infant Death Risk in Poor Nations


(Bloomberg) --

The Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to reverse years of progress in reducing maternal and child mortality worldwide by impairing access to medical care in poorer countries, a health financing group warned.

If Covid-19 were to cause similar disruptions as the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, almost 1.2 million children and 57,000 mothers could die over just the next six months, the Global Financing Facility Investors Group said in a statement. That would be a 45% increase over existing child mortality levels, said the group, which cited research by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

There is a growing threat to essential services that have been key drivers of recent reductions in illness and death among mothers and children, the group said. These include antenatal care visits, child vaccinations, nutrition services and access to family planning.

Of the 36 countries supported by the GFF, almost half are already reporting life-threatening service disruptions, the group said, urging immediate steps to avoid a secondary global health crisis. The problems are being exacerbated by limited supplies of protective gear for health workers and other lifesaving equipment, as well as restrictions on movement and economic hardships that will limit the ability of poor women and families to secure transport to health facilities or pay for services.

The pandemic “poses a potentially enormous setback for global efforts to end preventable maternal and child deaths and achieve universal health coverage by 2030, and could reverse decades of progress,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, global director for health, nutrition and population at the World Bank Group and director of GFF.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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