The impact of COVID-19 is weighing heavily on many African countries. As of November 14th 2021, 6,109,722 cases had been recorded with 151,173 deaths and 2.5% case fatality rate. Studies reveal substantial morbidity and socioeconomic impacts when accessing quality maternal healthcare including fear of infection and the containment measures in place, including social distancing and community containment. The pandemic has put additional strain on healthcare systems that are overburdened and under-resourced even in normal times and has exposed the vulnerabilities of high-risk population groups in addressing critical healthcare concerns. This study presents a mini review of how COVID-19 has disrupted maternal healthcare in Africa, and it further proposes ways to improve the situation.
COVID-19 has disrupted antenatal, skilled birth, and postnatal family planning services. Women and girls are vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 on several fronts and represent a group whose needs including antenatal, skilled birth, and postnatal family planning services have been disrupted, leading to unmet needs for contraception and an increase in unintended pregnancies. Restricted travel due to the fear and anxiety associated with contracting COVID-19 has resulted in delays in accessing prompt skilled care and essential healthcare services such as pregnancy care, immunisation, and nutritional supplementation. Misconceptions relating to COVID-19 have prompted concerns and created distrust in the safety of the healthcare system. Innovative measures are required to address these obstacles and ensure women are not denied access to available, accessible, acceptable, and quality maternal healthcare services in spite of COVID-19.
In the immediate term while physical distancing measures remain in force, deliberate effort must be made to provide evidence-based guidelines, good practice and expert advice that addresses the unique sexual and reproductive health context of African countries. Efforts to train and motivate healthcare providers to adopt online, remote approaches such as use of telemedicine, and expand the involvement of frontline maternal healthcare providers to deliver information on the availability of services through phone-based referral networks, culturally appropriate social media, community radio and folklore messaging strategies are critical to mobilise and secure community confidence in the safety of sexual and reproductive health and maternal care services.
- Maternal healthcare
- Public health
- Reproductive health