Executive Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Michael J Ryan and Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Executive Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Michael J Ryan and Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. AP Photo

India Pledges USD 2 Billion To Strengthen Care For Women, Children, Adolescents

India's commitment will be used to strengthen all levels of care in response to the pandemic and to ensure essential public health functions during the year 20-21.

PTI | Dec 13, 2020

India pledged a commitment of USD 2 billion at the World Health Organisation's 'Lives in the Balance' summit on Friday to provide essential services to women, newborns, young children and adolescents across the world.

The summit organised by WHO's The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), a global alliance of more than 1,000 organisations, registered a total commitment of USD 20.6 billion from a group of high income, low- and middle-income countries and charitable foundations across the world.

"USD 6.6 billion (32 per cent) of the total pledge is from money committed by low and middle-income countries themselves, including Afghanistan, India, Kenya, Liberia, and Nigeria. An additional USD 14 billion (68 per cent) is from official development assistance and grants given by Germany, Canada, Sweden, UK, USA and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation," the PMNCH said in a statement.

India's commitment of USD 2 billion will be used to strengthen all levels of care in response to the pandemic and to ensure essential public health functions during the year 20-21.

"As important as this USD 20.6 billion is, it only will partially solve the problem of providing basic essential services for women, newborns, young children and adolescents," Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

"Comprehensive efforts and collective advocacy are needed to ensure availability of substantially enhanced financial resources for this noble cause," he said.

The recent WHO data from 105 countries shows that 90 per cent of countries have experienced disruptions to health services, with low- and middle-income countries reporting the greatest difficulties.

According to early estimates of the indirect impact of Covid-19 on child and maternal mortality, more than 2 million additional deaths are estimated over 12 months (2020-2021) above the pre-pandemic level because of disruptions to essential health and nutrition services.

"The health and well-being of women, children and adolescents are now at great risk, with inequities compounded by narrowing access to essential health services such as antenatal care, skilled assistance at childbirth, postnatal care, immunizations and family planning. Our concern is that resources - insufficient to begin with - are being diverted away to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic," Helen Clark, Chair of PMNCH and former prime minister of New Zealand, said.

As of November 2020, 2.8 million children and adolescents have contracted Covid-19 in 87 countries, according to UNESCO. It said that in April, 1.5 billion students were affected by educational institutions closures in 195 countries this year, leading to loss of school meals and critical impacts on child nutrition.

"These findings show how weak our health systems are at protecting women, newborns, children and adolescents, and how much basic primary health care matters in saving lives and protecting rights. This funding will ensure women, children and adolescents can access health services and priority social protections throughout the Covid-19 crisis and recovery periods," Clark said.