New York, NY, September 22, 2022 (PAHO) –Speaking at a high-level event during the United Nations General Assembly side, PAHO Director Carissa F-Etienne highlighted the exacerbating impact of COVID-19 on the health of women, children and adolescents in the region. These groups are at greater risk and threaten to reverse the gains made in past decades.
“It is clear that we must act now to protect the future of our region,” Dr. Etienne said today in a video message to the 11th Accountability Breakfast, organized by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH).
In her statement, the director said that pervasive disruptions in maternal and newborn care have left expectant mothers and their babies without support during one of the most critical periods in a woman’s life and child development.
She added that young women were left particularly vulnerable, as “turmoil in family planning services fueled one of the largest increases in teenage pregnancy we’ve seen in more than a decade.” The Americas has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) side event, Addressing Conflict, Climate Change and COVID-19: A Triple Threat to Women, Children and Adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean, brought together high-level speakers to review the impact of current crises and the way forward to address these.
The Director of the Pan American Health Organization participated in a panel discussion alongside Kristi Kaljulaid, Global Advocate for the UN Secretary-General for Every Woman and Every Child and former President of Estonia, and Martin Chungung, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Participants included Helen Clark, PMNCH Chairman and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health of Jamaica, and Rosanna Briceno, Chair of the Wives of the CARICOM Leaders Action Network.
Dr Etienne also warned that gender-based violence is on the rise in the Americas, and that school dropouts have caused “the worst educational crisis we have ever seen”, with “our children missing more school days than children in any other region”.
She warned that children and adolescents across our region are at risk of becoming the generation that has lost the health, educational and economic opportunities they need to reach their fullest potential.
Looking ahead, the director reminded the committee that Latin America and the Caribbean have made remarkable progress in recent decades to reduce child mortality and expand access to health services, and urged leaders to “build on these past experiences and refocus our efforts as we rebuild from this pandemic.”
This includes stepping up efforts to restore children’s annual checkups and routine vaccinations against preventable diseases such as polio, measles and rubella, which have been delayed during the pandemic.
It also called for comprehensive, evidence-based programs to empower schools, communities and families to nurture young people so they can thrive, and urged countries to “bring women, children and adolescents to the negotiating table and work with them to shape interventions that aim to reach them.”
As part of PAHO’s participation in the United Nations General Assembly, Assistant Interim Director Marcos Espinal also joined a high-level roundtable on Global Solutions to Infectious Diseases on September 21, organized by the Wellcome Trust.
Founded in 2005 and hosted by the World Health Organization, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH) is the world’s largest coalition for the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents. PMNCH brings together 1,250 partners, including governments, NGOs, adolescent and youth groups, private sector organizations, health professional associations, academic and research institutions, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies.
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