The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is “especially concerned” about the impact of COVID-19 on women, children and adolescents.
Speaking at a virtual press conference from Geneva on Friday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the indirect effects of COVID-19 on these groups may be greCovid-19ater than the number of deaths due to the virus itself, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Because the pandemic has overwhelmed health systems in many places, women may have a heightened risk of dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth,” he said.
The WHO chief added that WHO has developed guidance for health facilities and community activities on maintaining essential services, including for women, newborns, children and adolescents.
As for the risks of women transmitting COVID-19 to their babies during breastfeeding, Tedros told reporters that based on the available evidence, WHO’s advice is that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19.
“Mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate and continue breastfeeding and not be separated from their infants, unless the mother is too unwell,” he said.
Saying that early evidence suggests people in their teens and 20s are at greater risk of depression and anxiety, online harassment, physical and sexual violence and unintended pregnancies, Tedros also highlighted the “dramatic impact” of the virus on adolescents, as school and university closures may limit their access to preventive services.