Africa to invest in health of women, children in humanitarian settings

NAIROBI, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Provision of quality and affordable healthcare services to women, children and adolescents in Africa's conflict hotspots will be a priority to avert a humanitarian crisis, senior officials said at a virtual forum Thursday.

Margaret Agama-Anyetei, the acting director for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development at the African Union (AU), said the bloc and its multilateral partners intend to scale up maternal, infant and adolescent health services in fragile settings as part of efforts to build the resilience of communities.

"Responding to the health needs of women, children and youth in humanitarian settings is critical to save lives and build resilience in the face of fragilities connected to the climate crisis, conflicts and the pandemic," said Agama-Anyetei.

She disclosed that the establishment of a home-grown agency to deal with the humanitarian crisis in the continent had gathered steam, and priority will be accorded to vulnerable groups like women, children, the elderly and youth.

While acknowledging that the climate crisis, COVID-19 pandemic and internal strife had taken a heavier toll on women, girls, children and the adolescents in Africa, Agama-Anyetei said providing them with nutritional support, clean water, sanitation and reproductive health services was paramount.

Early preparedness and response, improved accountability and partnership are key to boosting response to the health and nutrition needs of women and children in fragile settings, said Agama-Anyetei.

Convened by global health lobbies, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) and CORE Group, the virtual forum sought to rekindle conversation on effective delivery of health services to women, children and adolescents in humanitarian and fragile settings.

Chipo Chimamise, the deputy director of Maternal and Reproductive Health of the Ministry of Health and Childcare of Zimbabwe, said that investing in women, child centered healthcare programs was crucial, given their vulnerability to diseases, malnutrition occasioned by conflicts and natural disasters.

Chimamise suggested that African governments should prioritize investing in mental health and psychosocial support to help heal trauma among women, children and youth in humanitarian settings.

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