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Maternal mortality ratio in the least-developed nations is over 40 times higher than in Europe, said PMNCH.
Maternal mortality ratio in the least-developed nations is over 40 times higher than in Europe, said PMNCH.

Covid-19 may undo gains made in child, adolescent well-being

  • Health services globally are ill-equipped to deal with 21st century challenges, reveals PMNCH report

Covid-19 has severely threatened the major gains made over the last three decades in women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being, said the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH).

As part of its 2021-25 strategy released on Monday, the global alliance sought to mobilize its partners seeking changes in policy, financing and services for women, children and adolescents. India, too, is a part of PMNCH, the world’s largest alliance with over 1,000 partners across 10 constituencies, which includes government and non-government organisations, as well as professional groups.

The strategy document considered the large inequities in health coverage and outcomes, along with the growing double burden of ill-health, not only for communicable diseases, but also for non-communicable disease (NCDs), injuries, violence and mental health. In some areas, the global health response has been inadequate, and will be compounded by the impact of the pandemic, it added.

It also highlighted that, globally, health services have been ill-equipped to deal with 21st century economic, social and health challenges. Foremost among these are climate change, sustained structural inequalities worsening in many regions; weakening traditional institutions; reductions in democratic and civic space in many countries and now, covid-19, the document said.

The strategy document said the key lesson with the pandemic is that resilient health systems matter, but are often lacking. “Covid-19 has resulted in critical declines in sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services. Approximately 80 million babies risk missing routine immunizations," Rt Hon Helen Clark, PMNCH board chair, said in the foreword of the strategy document.

“Over 90% of students worldwide have been affected by school closures. The world faces a deep and sustained economic recession, and a reversal of significant recent progress towards health-related and other sustainable development goals," she added.

While the global maternal mortality ratio, or MMR, (number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is estimated to have fallen by 38% between 2000 and 2017, there are wide variations among countries.

The report also said that MMR in the least-developed countries is more than 40 times higher than in Europe.

The Guttmacher-Lancet Commission found in 2017 that meeting the unmet need for contraception for 214 million women in developing regions would avert 67 million unintended pregnancies annually. Among adolescents and young adults, mental health disorders (anxiety and depression) and substance abuse (alcohol and drugs) are the leading causes of “years living with disability".

Depressive disorders are the leading non-fatal health issue among females aged 15-19 years (2016) and suicide is a key public health concern for all adolescents. The health challenges, it said, are exacerbated by the health and socioeconomic consequences of covid, whose full implications for health outcomes and rights are not yet known. However, there is no doubt that equitable and high-quality health services and systems matter more today than ever.

The alliance will aim to drive down preventable morbidity and mortality among mothers and newborns, by advocating for the inclusion of essential MNCH services in benefits packages.

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