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An online COVID-19 summit is calling for a global commitment to improvements and greater investments in healthcare and social protection for women, children, and adolescents.

It says that post-pandemic health systems must be built back better, with a strong social protection net for all and improved healthcare for women, children and young people that takes full account of their self-articulated needs
Delegates attending this week’s online Lives in the Balance: A COVID-19 Summit, said they will call on global leaders to commit to a seven-point policy plan for improving and increasing investment in health systems and social protection policies for women, children and adolescents as the world rebuild in the wake of the pandemic.

The summit, which is taking place over two days, from July 1 is being jointly hosted by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), and CORE Group.

“On behalf of WHO, I stand behind all partners - civil society, health professionals, the private sector, young people, and more - in advancing the PMNCH Call to Action on COVID-19. Join us in this urgent, rallying call to leave no women, children, or adolescents behind in our response to this pandemic,” World Health Organization’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus said.

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While young and adult women, children, and adolescents are statistically less prone to die from COVID-19, the virus, and the measures are taken to control it, can compound and exacerbate the many social and health inequalities they face in their daily lives.

Research from The Lancet, for example, projects that disruptions in access to services in low- to middle-income countries could lead to more than one million child deaths and almost 57,000 maternal deaths over the next six months, while the WHO estimates that approximately 80 million babies are now at risk of missing routine immunizations.

Delegates attending this summit are calling for urgent action to mitigate the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and wellbeing of women, children, and adolescents, and to build back better health systems that take account of the self-articulated needs of these often neglected groups by involving them in designing programmes that explicitly meet their needs.

“This pandemic is a watershed moment for humanity,” said Helen Clark, Chair of PMNCH and former Prime Minister of New Zealand.

“It can be the moment when we tackle, once and for all, the unacceptable inequities that divide our societies, the moment we commit to having resilient health systems that provide accessible, high-quality care for all, and the moment when we acknowledge the need for truly inclusive policy dialogue and decision making.”

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“To seize that moment, we must begin by listening to women, children, and adolescents and all whose voices often go unheard.”

Following a major consultation with members of its global alliance of more than 1,100 organizations, PMNCH has produced a global seven-point Call to Action, which captures many of the priorities women and adolescents have been telling partners they need from health and social protection services.

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