Staggering setback in the health of women, children and adolescents revealed in a new UN analysis


A new UN report shows that the health of women and children has suffered globally, as the impacts of conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change converge with devastating effects on children’s prospects. , youth and women.

The data presented in the report shows a critical regression in virtually all major measures of child well-being and many key indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since the last Every Woman Every Child Progress Report released in 2020, food insecurity, hunger, child marriage, risks of intimate partner violence, and adolescent depression and anxiety have increased.

An estimated 25 million children were unvaccinated or under-vaccinated in 2021, 6 million more than in 2019, increasing their risk of deadly and debilitating diseases. Millions of children were out of school during the pandemic, many for more than a year, while an estimated 80% of children in 104 countries and territories experienced learning loss due to school closures. Since the start of the global pandemic, 10.5 million children have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19.

“At the heart of our broken promise is a failure to address the massive inequalities that are at the root of global crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic to conflict and the climate emergency. The report outlines the impacts of these crises on women, children and adolescents, from maternal mortality to loss of education and severe malnutrition”, said Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.

The report provides ample evidence that children and adolescents face vastly different opportunities for healthy lives simply based on where they were born, their exposure to conflict, and the economic circumstances of their families. For example:

  • A child born in a low-income country has an average life expectancy at birth of around 63 years, compared to 80 in a high-income country. This devastating 17-year survival gap has changed little in recent years. In 2020, 5 million children died even before the age of 5, mostly from preventable or treatable causes. Meanwhile, most maternal, child, and adolescent deaths and stillbirths are concentrated in just two regions: sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • More than 45 million children suffered from acute malnutrition in 2020, a life-threatening condition that leaves them vulnerable to death, developmental delays and disease. Nearly three-quarters of these children live in lower-middle-income countries. A staggering 149 million children were stunted in 2020. Africa is the only region where the number of children affected by stunting increased in the last 20 years, from 54.4 million in 2000 to 61.4 million in 2020.
  • The six countries with the largest number of internally displaced persons (Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen) are also among the top 10 food insecure countries.
  • A woman in sub-Saharan Africa has around 130 times the risk of dying from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in Europe or North America. Coverage of antenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery, and postnatal care is far from reaching all women in low- and middle-income countries, leaving them at high risk of death and disability.
  • Millions of children and their families are suffering from physical and mental health problems due to recent humanitarian disasters in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Somalia, Ukraine and Yemen. In 2021, a record 89.3 million people around the world were driven from their homes by war, violence, persecution and human rights abuses.

The report calls on the global community to address this damaging trajectory and protect the promises made to women, children and adolescents in the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, it advocates for countries to continue to invest in health services, to address all crises and food insecurity, and to empower women and youth around the world.

The report, titled protect the promise, is published by global partners, including WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) and Countdown to 2030, as a semi-annual summary of progress in response to the global strategy Every Woman, Every Child in the World. Secretary General of the United Nations. for the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents. The most comprehensive synthesis of evidence on the current state of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, updates the latest Global Strategy Progress Report Every Woman Every Child published in 2020.

Quotation sheet:

“Nearly three years after the onset of COVID-19, the long-term impact of the pandemic on the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents is becoming clear: their chances of leading healthy and productive lives they have been drastically reduced,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “As the world emerges from the pandemic, protecting and promoting the health of women, children and youth is essential to supporting and sustaining the global recovery.”

“The impacts of COVID-19, conflict and climate shocks have heightened risks for vulnerable communities, revealing weaknesses and inequities in health care systems and reversing hard-won progress for women, children and adolescents. , but we are not powerless to change this,” said UNICEF Executive Catherine Russell. “By investing in resilient and inclusive primary health care systems, boosting routine immunization programs and strengthening the health workforce, we can ensure that every woman and every child can access the care they need to survive and thrive.”

“There is a crisis of inequity that is accumulating on top of threats that are already increasing and getting worse. In a world where too many children, adolescents and women are dying, equity, empowerment and access are what urgently need focus,” said Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child and President of the Republic of Estonia , 2016-2021. “We call on everyone to think and act broadly and deeply to protect the promise. This promise refers not only to the commitments made in the Sustainable Development Goals and all subsequent campaigns, but also to the broader promise of the potential that we are all born with. Too often, this promise goes unclaimed, or even denied.”

“Faced with growing political backlash against sexual and reproductive health and rights in many countries, today’s women, children and adolescents are left without many of the protections of just a decade ago, and many others have yet to see the progress they need. ” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA. “Access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, is a fundamental right that directly and seriously affects women and adolescent girls’ ability to thrive. We need to expand these rights and services to the most marginalized, leaving no one behind.”

“The report advocates that countries continue to invest in health services, in all crises, and reimagine health systems that can truly reach all women, children and adolescents, no matter who they are or where they live,” said the Rt . . Hon Helen Clark, Chairman of the Board of PMNCH (The Association for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health) and former Prime Minister of New Zealand. “Experts and world leaders are calling for more women in decision-making and policy at all levels, meaningful engagement with young people, and primary health care systems that deliver what people need when and where they need it most.” .


Notes to the editor:

Download multimedia content here

Access infographics and data here

The report will be launched at the World Health Summit in Berlin on October 18, 2022 at 9am GMT+2 in a session where world leaders and young people will discuss the findings. The session can be joined in person or virtually.

Speakers include:

  • route The Honorable Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Chairman of the Board of PMNCH (@HelenClarkNZ)
  • HE Kersti Kaljulaid, former President of Estonia and UN SG Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child (@KerstiKaljulaid)
  • Dr. Austin Demby, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone (@mohs_sl)
  • Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO (@DrTedros)
  • Aboubacar Kampo, Director of Health, UNICEF (@AbouKampo)
  • Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA (@Atayeshe)
  • Anshu Banerjee, Director, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Aging, WHO (@ABanerjeeWHO)
  • Yana Panfilova, founder of Teenergizer, Ukrainian refugee and activist (@YPanfilova)
  • Elhadj As Sy, Chairman of the Board, Kofi Annan Foundation (@Elhadj_As_Sy)
  • Inger Ashing, Executive Director of Save the Children International (@SaveCEO_Intl)
  • Maziko Matemvu, President and Founder, Uwale (@mazikospeaks)
  • Loyce Pace, Under Secretary for Global Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, USA (@HHS_ASGA)


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