More than 2000 delegates from over 100 countries convened for the virtual Lives in the Balance: Improving the health of women, children, and adolescents through the Universal Health Coverage summit on Friday.
The delegates took stock of how the COVID-19 has affected progress towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), launched new commitments towards improving the health of women, children, and adolescents, and galvanized a participatory approach from all stakeholders to ensure the world can ‘do better’ during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Kenya, Liberia, and Nigeria are among a group of at least 10 countries making major policy and financial commitments to protect the health and well-being of women, children, and adolescents across the region during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Lives in the Balance is being staged to mark Universal Health Coverage Day on Saturday, 12 December, which calls upon all nations to provide affordable, quality health care for all of their citizens. The theme of this year’s day is “Health for All: Protect everyone - To end this crisis and build a safer and healthier future, we must invest in health systems that protect us all — now”, putting emphasis on making sure no one - and in particular no woman, child or adolescent - is left behind.
Delegates who attended the Lives in the Balance summit, includes representation from governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, health professional associations, youth-led organizations, and grass-roots campaign groups, will have the opportunity to:
The half-day summit, jointly convened by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), UHC2030, and CORE Group, builds on the very successful Lives in the Balance: A COVID-19 Summit, in July 2020, where a range of partners came together to call on global leaders to commit to PMNCH’s seven-point action plan for improving and increasing investment in health systems and social protection policies for women, children and adolescents as the world rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 is a stark reminder that there is no health security without universal health coverage. And we can’t make progress on UHC unless we double down on efforts to cover every woman, every child, and every adolescent,” said Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Board Chair of PMNCH.
“Public health and primary care provide the first line of defense against outbreaks. It all comes full circle.”
At the summit, countries including Afghanistan, India, Kenya, Liberia, Mexico, and Nigeria announced domestic policy and financial commitments to improve the health of women, children, and adolescents as part of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Donor countries, including Canada, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the USA, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also pledged further support in this critical area of global health and development, which is vital to the achievement of UHC.
“Findings from the UHC2030’s review of the state of UHC commitment show how, in many countries, poor and vulnerable groups are being further left behind, and inequities are widening due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO Amref Health Africa & Co-Chair of UHC2030.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is also exposing and exacerbating weaknesses in health systems, showing that many governments – rich and poor - neglected to invest in health, social safety nets, and emergency preparedness when it really mattered: before a crisis struck.”
Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on health systems, economies, and the lives, livelihoods, and well-being of people and communities. Recent forecasts indicate that COVID-19 may push 71 million people back into extreme poverty in 2020, in what would be the first rise in global poverty in more than 20 years (since 1998). Another study estimated that 6.7 million additional children could suffer from wasting in 2020, compared with projections without COVID-19, due to abrupt decreases in household incomes, disruptions to the supply of affordable, nutritious foods, and interruptions to health, nutrition, and social protection services.
The impact of the pandemic on the world’s most vulnerable women, children, and adolescents will be even more pronounced, as funding for services in this area of healthcare were already insufficient, long before COVID-19 struck, as detailed in a recent Every Women Every Child 2020 Progress Report.
Disruptions in essential services are now translating into real-world evidence of decreasing sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health outcomes, which go beyond the modeled estimates predicted at the beginning of the outbreak. New findings from the Global Finance Facility show that disruptions due to COVID-19 resulted in a 35 per cent drop in the number of children fully vaccinated in Liberia, 11 per cent in Afghanistan, and 13 per cent in Nigeria, three countries that will be making commitments at the summit. In Nepal, evidence shows how reductions in institutional childbirths during the COVID-19 lockdown has led to increased rates of stillbirth and newborn mortality.
“Great progress has been made in recent years to improve health and well-being, including for women, children, and adolescents, and to expand UHC,” said Lisa M Hilmi, Executive Director, CORE Group.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated that progress can be fragile, however, and must be protected. This summit will provide a space for reflection, exchange of best practices, a renewed commitment to collaboration and action, and mutual accountability.”