Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa was unacceptably high, accounting for about two-thirds of global maternal deaths in 2017. Preliminary data indicates that COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate women’s health challenges and the new analysis found that skilled birth attendance in the 14 countries dropped. In Nigeria, 362 700 pregnant women missed ante-natal care but between March and August 2020. Over 97 000 women gave birth away from health facilities and over 193 000 missed postnatal care within two days of giving birth. There were 310 maternal deaths in Nigerian health facilities in August 2020, nearly double the figure in August 2019.
An additional 1.37 million children across the African region missed the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine which protects against Tuberculosis (TB) and an extra 1.32 million children aged under one year missed their first dose of measles vaccine between January and August 2020, when compared with the same period in 2019.
Immunization campaigns covering measles, yellow fever, polio and other diseases have been postponed in at least 15 African countries this year. The introduction of new vaccines has been halted and several countries have reported running out of vaccine stocks.