The COVID-19 epidemic is causing widespread disruptions to crucial health services. As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, a new WHO study indicates that women’s health services are still far from fully restored, with 40 percent of African nations experiencing disruptions in sexual, reproductive, maternity, newborn, child, and adolescent health care.
The majority of the 36 African nations that contributed complete information reported up to 25% disruption of services during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the WHO World Pulse Survey on Continuity of Essential Health Care services conducted between November and December 2021. From the first quarter of 2021, the magnitude of the interruption remained basically unchanged.
According to a new WHO assessment of 11 African nations, maternal mortality in health facilities increased by 16 percent . the average during May and February 2020 compared to the corresponding time in 2019. In 2021, the percentage fell slightly to 11%. However, the number is expected to be far more because maternal deaths are more common at home than in hospitals. When compared to the pre-pandemic era, facility-based births decreased in 45 percent of nations during November and December 2021.
“Women continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 load two years later. Africa’s moms and daughters are having a difficult time getting the medical care they require. “The pandemic’s disruptive effect would be felt by women for so many years to come,” said WHO Regional Manager for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. “Countries must look past short-term fixes to return services to which was before levels and invest in long-term systems that can survive health catastrophes while assuring the continuity of critical services.”
Due to shut downs, economic uncertainty, decreased access to crucial social and health services, and increased household stress, women and girls are at an increased risk of sexual violence during the pandemic. WHO predicts that 245 million women and girls aged 15 and above are subjected to sexual and/or physical abuse perpetrated by an intimate partner each year, based on the most recent analysis done in 2021. Unfortunately, assistance to women who have experienced sexual assault reduced in 56 percent of African countries during November and December 2021 as a result of the pandemic, compared to the period before the pandemic.
The disruptions also had an impact on the availability of critical reproductive health products. According to a fast WHO assessment of 21 African countries conducted from June to September 2021, contraceptive use declined in 48 percent of countries. Pregnancies among teenagers have also increased in various countries. According to a report published in the British Medical Journal in 2021, adolescent high school girls who missed six months of school due to Kenya’s COVID-19 lockdown were multiple times as likely to get pregnant and 3 times as likely to drop out of school than those who graduated shortly before the pandemic. Teenage pregnancies have surged by 60% in South Africa since the pandemic began, according to a study conducted by the Medical Association in five provinces.
COVID-19 not only has a negative influence on women’s health, but it also has a significant economic impact. More women and girls will be pushed into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. By a report from the International Bank Group, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Women, poverty rates jumped from 11.7 percent in 2019 to 12.5 percent in 2021, and it may require until 2030 to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, 247 million women aged 15 and over are expected to live on the less than US$ 1.90 per day in 2021, with 53 percent (132 million) of them are from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Existing gender imbalances in important walks of society and development have also been exacerbated by the pandemic. Despite the fact that women make up 70% of health and social professionals in Africa and are on the front linesfrontlines of the COVID-19 action, according the UN Transformation Program and the UN Women International Gender Response Tracker, few of them are in top pandemic management jobs. In the African region, men lead 85 percent of the national COVID-19 task teams and women only 15 percent, with women accounting for only 30 percent of overall involvement.
Today, Dr. Moeti held a virtual news conference. Dr. Suzanne Ntoumi, Chairman and Director-General of the Congolese Foundation for Health Research, and Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, President of the Professional Women’s International Network, were also present.
Dr Adelheid Onyango, Filmmaker Universal Health Coverage/Healthier Communities, Dr Richard Mihigo, Co – ordinator, Immunization and Immunisation Programmes, Dr Thierno Balde, Regional COVID-19 Occurrence Manager, and Dr Leopold Ouedraogo, Local Senior advisor for Women’s reproductive Health were also on hand to answer questions from the WHO Regional Center for Africa.