- Commonwealth tells member states

Saturday, May 09, 2020

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LONDON, England (CMC) — Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland yesterday urged member states to maintain essential health care to non-COVID-19 patients while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement ahead of the virtual meeting of Commonwealth Health Ministers on May 14, Scotland noted that some countries have temporarily suspended cancer treatment and surgery to help hospitals manage an influx of COVID -19 patients.

The World Health Organization (WHO), at the same time, has noted that contagion suppression tactics such as lockdowns and border closures have limited the delivery of mosquito nets, insect repellents and vaccination schedules. Treatment and vaccination disruptions for preventable and curable illnesses could significantly increase mortality.

“The spread of COVID-19 has brought home to us with greater immediacy the devastating impact that disease can have on every aspect of our lives. The global response to COVID-19 has been impressive, but let us not lose focus on other health threats which kill thousands daily and put millions more at risk.”

Scotland said that the authorities should follow guidelines issued by the WHO and that they need to determine which health services ought to continue based on their local context and deploy whatever resources are available to deliver maximum treatment and care for all in need.

The Commonwealth said that a study by Johns Hopkins University predicts that about one million women and children could die in the next six months because the pandemic is disrupting routine health services in low- and middle-income countries.

These disruptions include a lack of access to family planning, ante and postnatal care, vaccinations and limited equipment, supplies and medical staff available during childbirth.

Scotland said that even before the present pandemic, the Commonwealth focus has been on the priority of providing Universal Health Coverage, so that all citizens have access to essential health services without financial hardship.

“This is particularly important for pregnant women and young children, to avoid unnecessary mortality, and becomes even more so in mobilising healthcare resources in order to respond effectively to the pandemic,” she added.

The virus, which was first detected in China last December, has so far killed 264,000 people, while infecting more than three million others globally.

President of the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation Kathleen McCourt said: “Over the past few months, countries across the world have implemented unprecedented measures to contain the spread of the infection at great economic and human costs.

“It is worthwhile, however, to reflect that existing diseases do not take a holiday,” she said, adding “ it is essential that governments do not neglect the major causes of death and disability in their countries, particularly those affecting the most vulnerable such as women and children”.

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