Global leaders have been challenged to reverse funding cuts to vital health services for women, children and adolescents caused by Covid-19, conflict and climate change.
Civil society groups and health professionals, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, said there was an urgent need for targeted investment in programmes and policies to tackle the devastating social and economic impact of crises, including the food crisis in Africa and the conflict in the Democratic of Congo (DRC).
“It is essential for citizens to be heard at the highest levels of government and leadership. Leaders need to understand what people want, and to play their part as champions in creating robust and responsive health systems and communities,” said Helen Clark, the board chair of Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), at a breakfast meeting on Thursday.
Covid-19 has led to food price hikes and the overall rise in the cost of living in most African countries. Some countries have been limiting access to food and other essentials, even if food is available at increased prices in local markets.
About 5.5 million children in East Africa are facing high levels of malnutrition due to the compounding effects of Covid-19, intense drought, and the Ukraine crisis. About 97 million more people are living on less than $1.90 a day because of the pandemic, increasing the global poverty rate from 7.8 percent to 9.1 percent.
Data from the World Health Organisation, for instance, shows that in 2021 alone, 25 million children did not receive the basic vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis on account of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Further, conflict in Africa increased women’s mortality by 112 deaths per 100,000 person-years which translates to a 21 percent increase above the baseline.
The DRC continues to witness one of the most complex and long-standing humanitarian crises arising from conflict. More than 27 million people face severe and acute food insecurity, with nearly 5.5 million IDPs forced to move sometimes several times. Some 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers are hosted in neighbouring countries.