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Securing maternal and child health in times of COVID-19

Securing maternal and child health in times of COVID-19

At a WHS side event, Germany confirms its support to the Global Financing Facility

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse decades of progress in maternal, child and adolescent health. To stem this dangerous tide, at a side event of the World Health Summit high-level delegates, including BMZ, reaffirmed their full commitment to the Global Financing Facility, a global multi-stakeholder partnership determined to ensure access to health services for just these groups.

Facts and figures were alarming even before the pandemic started: In 2017, about 308.000 women in low- and lower-middle-income countries died during pregnancy and childbirth. In 2015, some 5.9 million children did not reach their fifth birthday. Most of these deaths were preventable. 

In times of COVID-19, the situation is getting worse. Projections suggest that a moderate decline in sexual and reproductive health services over six months could result in 12.200 additional maternal deaths. Even a moderate decrease in the provision of pregnancy, childbirth and neonatal care could result in 28.000 additional maternal deaths and 168.000 newborn deaths. More than 47 million women in low and middle-income countries could lose access to contraceptives resulting in up to 7 Million unintended pregnancies. 

Calling for more direct investments in maternal and child health

Mari Pangestu, Managing Director or Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank.

These worrying prospects prompted the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents (GFF) to host a side event ‘Protecting and investing in women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in a COVID-19 impacted world’ at the 2020 World Health Summit. Mari Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships at the World Bank, called on international health experts and politicians to support more direct investment in maternal and child health. She warned pandemic impacts could reverse important progress made over the past 25 years in just a couple of months. She called on partners to redouble their efforts to prevent this. The GFF, she said, with its recently endorsed new strategy, is well-placed to help reach the most vulnerable: women, children and adolescents.

The GFF: A mechanism to close the funding gap in maternal, child and adolescent health

Established in 2015 and housed at the World Bank, the GFF is a multi-stakeholder global partnership committed to accelerating the delivery of health services to women, children and adolescents and at mobilising resources for primary health care. Today, it supports 36 low and lower-middle income countries to develop, fund and implement prioritised national health plans that scale up access to affordable quality care and nutrition. The GFF works with country governments and other stakeholders to maximize the use of domestic financing and external support for better, more sustainable health results. While its focus is on prioritising investments to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, it aims at strengthening health systems overall to accelerate country progress towards Universal Health Coverage.

How does the GFF work?

In GFF countries, governments lead and bring partners – financiers, civil society and private sector – together to support prioritised, costed national plans. The partnerships aim to mobilise the required resources through the combination of domestic and external funds with grants from the GFF Trust Fund linked to projects funded with World Bank resources – mostly grants and loans through the International Development Association. At the same time, evidence-based decision-making, health system reforms and aligned technical support lead to more efficient use of available resources. The approach is showing first successes: Every GFF Trust Fund Dollar is linked to seven Dollars from World Bank-funded projects and several countries have committed to increasing their budget allocations to health.

Germany reaffirms support to the GFF, in times of COVID-19 and beyond

Reconfirming its longstanding commitment to maternal, child and adolescent health, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) contributes 50 Million EUR to the GFF Trust Fund in 2020 and 2021. 

Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary, BMZ

At the WHS side event, Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary, BMZ, noted that, since the start of the pandemic, BMZ has provided more than 200 million EUR for response measures in the health sector. In view of the crisis it increased its core contributions to the UN Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation by 30 million EUR and 3 Million EUR respectively. According to Mr. Barthle ‘In times of COVID-19, building strong and resilient health systems in our partner countries remains at the heart of Germany’s response. Continuity of essential services, including sexual and reproductive health services, is our goal.’ 

Michaela Michel-Schuldt and Detlev Tenzer, October 2020

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