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Lessons learned and practical guide to ensure continuity of reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health services during COVID -19 pandemic

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Dakar, 15 May 2020 - The United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA) Regional Office for West and Central Africa held a virtual press conference on Friday, 15 May 2020, to present findings of a 20-year review of pandemics with lessons learned and practical guidance on ensuring the continuity of reproductive, maternal, neonatal and adolescent health in times of pandemic.

 

The Regional Director for West and Central Africa Regional Office of UNFPA, Mabingue Ngom and Professor Macodou Sall, Doctor of Public Health in Epidemiology, who led the review made the presentations.

The review draws out lessons learned from 20 years of major epidemics since 2003, including SARS-CoV, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika and MERS-CoV. The findings noted that responses to such outbreaks had hurt maternal, reproductive and child health services. Recognising how, and how much, epidemics affect women, children, and other vulnerable populations is crucial if nations are to create effective and fair responses.

Drawing some lessons, Professor Macodou Sall, in the review noted the importance of consistent messaging regarding issues of maternal and newborn health, which will help women and their families seek early advice and make timely decisions. He said, Maternity wards, for example, must always be prepared to be perceived as safe places. Healthcare workers (HCWs) should have proper training in infection control and prevention practices, as well as in the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“UNFPA, the UN lead agency for reproductive health, in compliance with WHO guidelines, is supporting governments to ensure sexual and reproductive rights and maintain continuity of services during the pandemic. However, the media also plays a crucial role in responding to the negative effects of COVID-19 by raising awareness and combating the spread of misinformation.” Mabingue Ngom told the press.

The Regional Director spoke of the health concerns of mothers and newborns who are naturally vulnerable, even if there is no evidence of direct transmission, as well as the need to support the health workers and midwives who are the backbone of maternal health systems although exposed to the forefront.

Health workers and midwives, despite UNFPA support, do not have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a recent study which UNFPA commissioned to the John Hopkins University, UNFPA warned that due to disruptions in the supply chain, if medium or COVID19-related disruptions continue for 6 months, 47 million women in 114 low- and middle-income countries will not be able to use modern contraceptives. The study of 114 low- and middle-income countries also estimated that if containment continues for 6 months, there will be 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence, as well as 15 million additional cases every 3 months.

There is evidence that measures to prevent and control COVID-19 have a negative impact on maternal, reproductive and neonatal health services. Therefore, knowing how epidemics affect women, children and other vulnerable populations is critical to creating effective and equitable responses.

While the Summary findings can be downloaded from the UNFPA WCARO website, the full report of the study will be made available to the public soon.

 

Contacts:

Habibou Dia| Media Specialist, UNFPA WCARO | dia@unfpa.org | Tel: +221 78 620 45 13- Dakar, Senegal