Action needed for women, children, health workers in MidEast: PMNCH

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“Urgent action is needed to protect vulnerable women, children and adolescents and the health care workers supporting them in conflict-affected states in the Middle East,” The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), a multi-constituency partnership hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), said in a statement late Tuesday.

“Women, children and adolescents, and the health and aid workers who provide their care and support are facing growing challenges and life-threatening risks in these times of escalating conflict and humanitarian crises worldwide, according to a commentary published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) this week to coincide with World Immunisation Week (April 24-30),” the statement said, adding that “while the recent devastating hostilities in Ukraine have captured the interest of the world, there are several other long-standing and growing conflicts that also deserve attention and political mobilization from the global community.”

“In 2020, for example, a record 56 active conflicts were documented globally, including in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”

“Commentary co-authors, the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, PMNCH Board Chair and former New Zealand prime minister and Kersti Kaljulaid, U.N. Secretary General’s Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child, former president of Estonia, call for a multi-sectoral response to ensure continuity of services for women, children and adolescents in conflict and humanitarian settings,” PMNCH added, underlining that the officials “urge global leaders to commit to greater investment in safety and protection measures for health and aid workers who risk their own lives striving to provide services, support and care to vulnerable women, children, and adolescents in the most challenging circumstances.”

The statement also emphasized that polio, a normally eradicated illness, has started reemerging in underdeveloped countries suffering from violence.

“Conflict has caused polio to reemerge in otherwise polio-free countries. For example, Syria and Iraq saw the emergence of polio outbreaks for the first time in decades after the onset of the Syrian civil war,” it added.

“In Afghanistan – one of the few countries where polio is still endemic despite global efforts to achieve eradication – because of the killing of eight polio workers in February 2022, the national polio vaccine campaign was suspended in two provinces.”

The statement also included remarks by Göknur Topçu, president of the World Association of Trainees Obstetrics and Gynaecology and member of PMNCH.

“Lifesaving vaccines and basic humanitarian supplies must be delivered to vulnerable individuals, especially pregnant women, and children in conflict settings throughout the region. It is crucial that health and aid workers’ timely and unconditional access to women, children, and adolescents in urgent medical need are ensured,” she said in the article.

“Humanitarian crises are causing previously eradicated diseases to re-emerge. While the world is continuing to battle with COVID-19, other vaccine-preventable diseases still pose a threat to regions under instability and violence. Governments and the international community must take urgent action for the wellbeing of all lives living under threat.”


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