Neonatal healthcare services hard hit by Covid-19

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DHAHA, March 19, 2022 (BSS) – Expecting mothers and newborn babies are hit
hard by the ongoing Corona pandemic, which put the entire world to a
standstill, due to unavailability of proper healthcare services.

According to the UNICEF, a United Nations agency responsible for providing
humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, the ongoing
pandemic has put pregnant women and newborns at the most vulnerable situation
in Bangladesh.

Shortage of skilled manpower, including doctors and midwives, and equipment
are being faced at healthcare centres during the birth of children as various
precautionary measures such as lockdowns and curfews have been enforced in
different countries in order to stem the spread of Coronavirus, UNICEF said
in a report.

Unicef said as many as 2.4 million new born babies will see the light in
Bangladesh and around 116 million children will be born around the globe till
March 2021.

Tahura Khanam, wife of Shaheen Alam, who is an employee of a private
organisation in Mymensingh, is pregnant. But she is afraid to be admitted to
hospital fearing Corona infection.

She said, “Doctors advised me to get admitted to a hospital as I am facing
some complications. But, I am afraid to go to the hospital due to Corona fear
and the dilapidated condition of medical system.”

Kamruzzahan Panna, a gynecologist at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital,
said, “We are trying our level best to provide healthcare to all types of
patients, including pregnant women, in compliance with the health rules.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Bangladesh’s position is
the ninth in the world in terms of birth of children in the first nine months
since the declaration of the epidemic on March 11 last year.

Bangladesh Department of Health sources said maternal and neonatal access
to healthcare has declined significantly to a great extent since the onset of
the Covid-19 crisis.

Former president of Obstetric and Gynecological Society of Bangladesh
Raushanar Begum said an additional 36 percent deliveries are now being held
at home due to reduction of services at health centres. “This tendency has
increases the risk of maternal mortality and other complications. However,
there is a sub-committee on maternal health and family planning in the
National Technical Advisory Committee during Corona for safe motherhood,” she
added.

The Department of Health said they were providing all possible assistance
to the government to continue maternal, neonatal and child health care
services during the epidemic through guidelines and providing training to
doctors, nurses and midwives.

Unicef country representative Tomo Hozumi said despite the pressure on
health systems due to the Covid-19 situation, routine life-saving services
for pregnant mothers and newborns need to be maintained with proper
protection.

He said they are working with the government of Bangladesh to assist in
saving lives by ensuring that pregnant mothers and sick newborns receive the
necessary assistance in the coming months.

Senior Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies Nazneen Ahmed
said that health workers should be given the opportunity to make home visits
to ensure health services for pregnant women and maternity mothers.

“Women live in remote areas should be encouraged to stay at home and
maternal waiting homes that have been set up for pregnancy and maternity
period and to seek telephone advice, she said.

In the localities where healthcare centers are closed, training of health
workers and safety equipment including sterile birth kits should be provided
to ensure safe childbirth services, she opined.

State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatunnesa Indira said
Bangladesh, like other countries in the world, is facing a tough challenge
due to the global pandemic.

“However, women are getting benefit from the incentive package of over Tk 1
lakh crore announced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to tackle the Corona,”
she said. New projects and programmes for the development and protection of
women and children will be taken up by her ministry to deal with Corona, she
added.