Mothers, newborns, young children and adolescents are losing 20 per cent of their health and social services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says a panel of senior global health experts.
“Even before COVID-19, global progress towards 2030 targets to save the lives of women and children was already lagging by around 20 per cent. The global pandemic is making a bad situation even worse,” says Joy Phumaphi, co-chair of the Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) and former WHO Assistant Director-General.
Phumaphi in an exclusive interview with KBC says: “an estimated 20–40% of health expenditure is wasted globally due to inefficiencies and corruption; this has been a repeated finding over the past 10 years and currently amounts to around 2 trillion USD a year.”
Wasted health expenditure severely constrains the resources available for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health, and undermines trust globally.
It highlights the need for accountability to ensure budget transparency across the work of government, development partners, the private sector, media and civil society.
Health spending which is properly accounted for is as important as how much is spent.
According to the IAP 2020 report, countries that perform better on reducing maternal and child mortality are also performing better on a range of evidence-based factors for success, such as data and information, and laws and policies.
They invest in a justifiable way, based on evidence, rights and rule of law, and use innovation to catalyze progress.
“Accountability is not a one-time action. Once elected, governments need to continually demonstrate accountability for their actions, and citizens should be able to participate and voice their concerns,” says Phumaphi.
Ethnic minority communities even in the wealthiest countries have large disparities of both morbidity and mortality.
A number of factors create disparities: racism, low wages, limited opportunities, and poor education. This exacerbates poor health, lack of access to health, water and sanitation.
Women, children and adolescents in countries with access to similar economic resources sometimes experience different health outcomes. For example, the United States spends more than twice as much on health than either Japan or France, yet children in the US are more likely to die before their 5th birthday and women are more than twice as likely to die in childbirth.
Another example: Nigeria spends around 74 USD per capita on health, compared to 34 USD in Tanzania.
However, Nigeria has more than double the child mortality rate compared to Tanzania, 120 and 53 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively. This reflects significant inequalities and other disparities.
“A key element to sustainable progress is strong citizen voices which advocate for full accountability at all levels, community, state and national,” says Dr Nicholas Alipui, M.D, former UNICEF Director of Programmes.
The IAP 2020 report also calls for leaders to fulfil their commitments and lays out the action needed to get back on track.
“Commitments to Universal Health Coverage, Primary Health Care, International Health Regulations and Sustainable Development, were urgently needed before the pandemic. Now with COVID-19, they are even more important,” concludes Phumaphi.
Overview of estimated impacts from COVID-19 pandemic on mothers, newborns, young children and adolescents since its start in January.
- 5.3 million deaths in children under 5 by pre-pandemic estimates, and over 400,000 additional deaths due to COVID-19-related disruptions in services.
- 2.5 million newborn deaths pre-pandemic, with a minimum of 168,000 additional deaths estimated.
- 295,000 maternal deaths pre-pandemic, with an additional 24,400 additional deaths estimated.
- 13.5 million children missed vaccinations against life-threatening diseases.
- More than 20 countries reported vaccine shortages caused by the pandemic.
- Disruption to contraceptive supplies leading to 15 million unintended pregnancies in low- and middle-income countries.
- Around 42-66 million children risk falling into extreme poverty.
- Some 370 million children are missing school meals.
- Women suffering increased depression, anxiety and uncertainty.
- 15 million additional acts of violence against women and girls every three months of lockdown. In some countries, emergency calls increased by 30 per cent.