The COVID-19 restrictions have severely impacted health services for pregnant women and new moms in Africa as many of them lost their lives amid curfew restrictions, a humanitarian NGO has voiced.

“In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, curfews imposed in certain African countries made it difficult for pregnant women to reach clinics and/or hospitals after curfew time,” Project HOPE, a global health and humanitarian relief organization, said in its report Monday.

“Many health centers which offer free or low-cost services were also closed during the pandemic. … Many hospitals also had to rearrange their units to accommodate COVID-19 patients. In many cases, it meant diverting resources for existing medical needs to COVID-19 needs, leaving pregnant women and new mothers without access to adequate care,” Project HOPE added.

Citing figures confirmed by the World Health Organization, the NGO said African countries have witnessed rises in maternal deaths, with the highest increases reported in Mali, Comoros, South Africa, and Senegal.

Project HOPE warned that decades of progress made to avoid maternal complications and deaths across the African continent “could be reversed,” calling on countries to develop public health care responses that back the continuation of women’s health care services during emergency times.

“Globally, and in many African countries, women have borne the brunt of the harmful effects of the pandemic. They have had limited to no access to essential maternal and child health services for a significant time period as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and scarce resources in already overstretched hospitals and health centers,” Eden Ahmed Mdluli, the senior technical officer for Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health at Project HOPE, was quoted as saying in the report.

“Countries must develop a public health response that ensures the provision of maternal and child health services in such critical times. Pandemics should not present either-or propositions,” he stressed.

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