The safest place for a woman to deliver her baby is at a functional health facility with the help of a skilled birth attendant.
However, during this global crisis, many women may end up delivering at home without appropriate support due to restriction in movements.
A vital lesson from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is that the biggest threat to women’s and girls’ lives was not the virus, but the shutdown of routine health services and people’s fear of going to hospital.
Thousands of more lives were lost when safe delivery, neonatal and family planning services became inaccessible due to the outbreak.
We are currently witnessing the same dynamics on a much larger scale.
The Ebola epidemic, and now Covid-19, expose how weak Africa’s health systems are at protecting mothers, newborns, young children and adolescents. We are at a point where decades of progress for this group could be easily reversed.
Also of concern is the decline in access to life-saving vaccines for children.
As the government prepares the system to deal with the surging numbers of Covid-19 patients, it must also ensure that the gains made in the maternal and neonatal segment are not reversed.
Efforts must be made to ensure continuity of care with adequate funding for infection prevention and equipment for healthcare workers. Health services must remain financially and physically accessible for women whose households may lose income or whose normal service delivery provider may no longer be available.
Referral pathways and transportation must remain intact for emergencies.