‘Maximum impact of COVID-19 felt by women, children, adolescents’

File Photo: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi: Despite the country’s health systems being under severe strain due to the ongoing pandemic, every effort has been made to ensure that “healthcare services are made available to women, children and adolescents”, said Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.

Addressing the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) ‘Accountability Breakfast’, through video conference, he said “the maximum impact of COVID-19 has been felt by women, children, and adolescents and this called for urgent action”.

“We are in a constant dialogue to ensure that healthcare services are made available to women, children and adolescents remain in focus despite the health systems being under severe strain due to the COVID epidemic,” said Vardhan.

The ‘Accountability Breakfast 2020′, held on September 29, focused on securing global accountability for protecting women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health and rights during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

The virtual event, attended by over 1600 delegates from all over the world,  was co-hosted by the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) and Every Woman Every Child (EWEC).

It attracted a wide range of stakeholders from governments to grass-roots organisations, bringing together people with power to make changes and people calling for those changes to be made.

The minister, during his speech, also talked about India’s “zero-tolerance” approach for service denial to pregnant women and their newborn babies and strengthening the system for “client feedback, grievance redressal, and greater accountability and transparency”.

“The idea is to have a fully responsive and accountable health system that will not only result in a positive birthing experience but also help end preventable maternal and newborn deaths,” he explained.

Further, he shed light on the Indian government’s stated policy of no denial for essential services, which include “Reproductive Maternal Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH), tuberculosis, chemotherapy, dialysis, and healthcare of the elderly”.

He also expressed satisfaction that the steps taken by his government have helped reduce ‘out-of-pocket-expenditure’ of those affected.  The event took place as the global ‘Every Woman Every Child’ movement’s recently published report warned that a decade of remarkable progress, including under-five deaths reaching an all-time low, maternal deaths falling by 35 per cent, and one billion children vaccinated is now threatened by conflict, the climate crisis, and increasingly by the health, social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.