Women, children bear brunt of the pandemic - GulfToday

Women, children bear brunt of the pandemic

Children in Covid-19 pandemic

Children's lives have been severely disrupted by the pandemic. Reuters

If there is one section of society that is badly affected by the coronavirus, it is the women and children. Particularly in Third World countries.

Millions of women and children in poor countries are at risk because the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting health services they rely on, from neonatal and maternity care to immunisations and contraception.

Monique Vledder, head of secretariat at the bank’s Global Financing Facility (GFF), said the agency was gravely worried about the numbers of children missing vaccinations, women giving birth without medical help and interrupted supplies of life-saving medicines like antibiotics.

According to a report, globally, more newborns die each year from prematurity than from any other cause. Additionally, a staggering one million stillbirths happen just minutes or hours before birth every year, and many of these losses are linked to maternal deaths.

Already, the women and children are facing extremely trying times in Uganda. Fearful that the pandemic could overwhelm already overburdened hospitals, authorities have banned private transport without special authorisation. But in a poor country with few ambulances, the travel ban can be deadly for some.

A human rights group in the East African country says seven women in labour and two babies have died because they were forced to walk to hospital to give birth. The Ministry of Health said it was investigating the reports.

The government ban on private transport includes people suffering medical emergencies. But public health officials say barring vehicles from the road is making it hard for patients and personnel to reach medical facilities.

Against this backdrop, a global alliance of more than 1,000 organisations has announced $20.6 billion in pledges to help women, newborns, young children and adolescents deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and long-standing issues. This is a commendable move.

The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which is hosted by the World Health Organisation, says $16.1 billion are new commitments to address COVID-19, $2.2 billion is new money not linked to the coronavirus, and $2.3 billion is new funding for existing programmes.

Low and middle income countries including Afghanistan, India, Kenya, Liberia and Nigeria pledged a total of $6.6 billion while $14 billion came from international aid and grants from Germany, Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the partnership said.

The $20.6 billion will ensure women, children and adolescents can access health services and priority social protection throughout the COVID-19 crisis and recovery periods.

However, what is worrying is that the coronavirus lockdown could lead to a 20 per cent surge in domestic violence as victims remain trapped at home with their abusers. There is no doubt that the virus has affected the psyche of a lot of people. A UN prediction warns the pandemic will have a considerably “catastrophic impact” on women.

For example, the spiral in domestic violence that nastily impacts women. Every three months of lockdown could result in 15 million more cases of domestic abuse than would normally be expected, according to the UNFPA, the UN reproductive health agency.

Projections underscore what the United Nations has described as a “shadow pandemic” alongside COVID-19.

Many countries have already reported spikes in calls to domestic abuse hotlines. At the same time the lockdowns are making it far tougher for charities to reach women isolated at home.

The pandemic has also hit women on another front: gender equality, as millions of women and girls are predicted to have unwanted pregnancies and fall into poverty.

Let’s not miss the wood for the trees. A “wake-up call” is needed to protect women’s and children’s rights amid the pandemic. The sooner this is done, the better.

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