UN report finds declines in women’s and children’s health

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(NEW YORK) — A United Nations report published Tuesday showed women’s and children’s health have backslid due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict and climate change.

The report, titled Every Woman Every Child Progress Report, found that since 2020, rates of anxiety and depression, food insecurity and intimate partner violence have risen while rates of vaccination have declined.

“The impacts of COVID-19, conflicts and climate crises have raised the stakes for vulnerable communities, revealing the weaknesses and inequities in health care systems and reversing hard-won progress for women, children and adolescents — but we are not powerless to change this,” UNICEF Executive Catherine Russell said in a statement.

“By investing in resilient, inclusive primary health care systems, jumpstarting routine immunization programs and strengthening the health workforce, we can make sure that every woman and every child can access the care they need to survive and thrive,” Russell said.

The report found that at least 25 million children were either unvaccinated or under-vaccinated in 2021 — at least six million more than in 2019.

This includes routine childhood vaccinations like the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which prevents against certain strains of the virus that can lead to cervical cancer.

The pandemic also forced millions of children to miss school, and the report estimates that 80% of children in 104 countries and territories “experienced learning loss because of school closures.”

Additionally, the report found that more than 45 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition, which occurs when children don’t have adequate nutrient intake. According to the report, this leaves children vulnerable to developmental delays, disease and death.

What’s more, world hunger had risen since the beginning of the pandemic, with 768 million people experiencing hunger.

The report attributes the rise in global hunger to pandemic-related economic disruption and climate change events such as drought and conflicts, including the Russia-Ukraine war.

In addition, estimates showed an increase in mental health conditions compared to years prior, including an increase in major depressive disorders of 27.6% and a 25.6% increase in anxiety disorders since the pandemic began.

The report also examined how records from helplines, police departments and other organizations showed an increase in violence against women and, specifically, intimate partner violence.

The authors said the rise could be attributed to several factors, including lockdowns forcing women to spend more time in close proximity to abusive partners, stress from the pandemic leading to violence and less access to social services.

“Almost three years on from the onset of COVID-19, the pandemic’s long-term impact on the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents is becoming evident: Their chances for healthy and productive lives have declined sharply,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general for the World Health Organization, said in a statement.

The statement added, “As the world emerges from the pandemic, protecting and promoting the health of women, children and young people is essential for supporting and sustaining the global recovery.”

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