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Pan American Health Organization focuses on “devastating” impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on women

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Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2021. 4:45 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Two decades of progress in reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to family planning in Latin America and the Caribbean could be rolled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That was asserted by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne in a weekly press briefing held today, Wednesday, leading up to the upcoming International Day of Action on Women’s Health, celebrated on May 28.

Dr. Etienne cited United Nations estimates that up to 20 million women in the Americas will have their birth control disrupted during the pandemic, either because services are unavailable or because women will no longer have the means to pay for contraception

Pregnancy and newborn care also have been interrupted in nearly half of countries in the Americas, she said. At the same time, pregnant women are more vulnerable to respiratory infections such as COVID-19. If they get sick, they tend to develop more serious symptoms that require intubation, which can put both the mother and baby at risk. 

The maternal mortality rate in Latin America and the Caribbean declined from 96 to 74 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births between 2000 and 2017, an overall reduction of 23.1%.

Dr. Etienne called on countries to act, starting with ensuring that women and girls can access the health services they need – like sexual and reproductive health services, and pregnancy and newborn-related care – during the COVID response.

“We must remember that the challenges and inequities that we faced prior to COVID haven’t gone away during the pandemic – they’ve only worsened and can’t be overlooked. That’s why we must make protecting the lives of women a collective priority,” she continued.  

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