In-depth
UNICEF calls for support for pregnant women and newborns amid COVID-19 pandemic
  • | dtinews.vn | May 08, 2020 05:03 PM
With 116 million expected births in the approximately 9 months since the COVID pandemic was recognized, UNICEF calls on governments and donors to maintain lifesaving services for pregnant women and newborns.

An estimated 116 million babies will be born under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF said today ahead of Mother’s Day. These babies are projected to be born up to 40 weeks after COVID-19 – currently straining health systems and medical supply chains all over the world – was recognized as a pandemic on March 11.

New mothers and newborns will be greeted by harsh realities, UNICEF said, including global containment measures such as lockdowns and curfews; health centres overwhelmed with response efforts; supply and equipment shortages; and a lack of sufficient skilled birth attendants as health workers, including midwives, are redeployed to treat COVID-19 patients.

“Millions of mothers all over the world embarked on a journey of parenthood in the world as it was. They now must prepare to bring a life into the world as it has become – a world where expecting mothers are afraid to go to health centres for fear of getting infected, or missing out on emergency care due to strained health services and lockdowns,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “It is hard to imagine how much the coronavirus pandemic has recast motherhood.”

Ahead of Mother’s Day, recognized in May in over 128 countries, UNICEF is warning that COVID-19 containment measures can disrupt life-saving health services such as childbirth care, putting millions of pregnant mothers and their babies at great risk.

Countries with the expected highest numbers of births in the 9 months since the pandemic declaration are: India (20.1 million), China (13.5 million), Nigeria (6.4 million), Pakistan (5 million) and Indonesia (4 million). Most of these countries had high neonatal mortality rates even before the pandemic and may see these levels increase with COVID-19 conditions. The number of births in Viet Nam is estimated to be more than 1.5 million in 2020.

Even wealthier countries are affected by this crisis. In the US, the sixth highest country in terms of expected number of births, over 3.3 million babies are projected to be born between March 11 and December 16. In New York, authorities are looking into alternative birthing centers as many pregnant women are worried about giving birth in hospitals.

UNICEF warns that although evidence suggests that pregnant mothers are not more affected by COVID-19 than others, countries need to ensure they still have access to antenatal, delivery and postnatal services. Likewise, sick newborns need emergency services as they are at high risk of death. New families require support to start breastfeeding, and to get medicines, vaccines and nutrition to keep their babies healthy.

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