DURBAN – The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is “especially concerned” about the impact of Covid-19 on women, children and adolescents.
Speaking at a virtual press conference from Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the indirect effects of Covid-19 on these groups may be greater than the number of deaths due to the virus itself.
“Because the pandemic has overwhelmed health systems in many places, women may have a heightened risk of dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth,” he said.
The WHO chief added that they have developed guidance for health facilities and community activities on maintaining essential services, including for women, newborns, children and adolescents.
Health experts are working to get a clearer picture of how Covid-19 affects children and adolescents. Much remains to be known about the disease’s impacts on this population, according to Dr Maria van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist and WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic.
“We have a number of unknowns that we’re really trying to better understand. How often are they infected? Do they play a role in the transmission and if so, how much are they playing in that role? What roles do schools potentially have?” she said.
Dr Michael Ryan, WHO head of emergencies, added that several studies are underway, including into why some children end up with severe outcomes and needing to be hospitalised from the disease.
In an article published on the World Economic Forum website, Swedish foreign affairs minister, Ann Linde said that regardless of where one looks, it is women who bear most of the responsibility for holding societies together, be it at home, in health care, at school, or in caring for the elderly.
“The need to support these women and children will only increase when the crisis is over and people are free to move around again. We must ensure that women’s shelters and other forms of assistance are maintained and strengthened accordingly. Governments and civil-society groups must provide more resources such as emergency housing and telephone helplines, perhaps leveraging mobile technologies in innovative new ways, as is happening in so many other domains,” said Linde.
Tedros also added that WHO has developed guidance for health facilities and community activities on maintaining essential services, including for women, newborns, children and adolescents.
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