Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents, a global partnership housed at the World Bank, has sounded the alarm that service delivery disruptions would hit women and children the hardest.
On Monday, GFF launched a $1.2 billion fundraising campaign in an effort to stop this “secondary health crisis.” The funds, which GFF hopes to raise by the end of 2021, will go toward scaling up its support of countries in making smarter investments in the health, nutrition, and well-being of women and children through 2023.
Across its 36 partner countries, GFF has seen a 25% drop in coverage of essential health services for women and children over the past year, which it says is equivalent to 4 million pregnant women losing access to childbirth care, 82 million children not receiving oral hydration treatment for diarrhea, and 17 million children missing vaccinations.
Kenya, one of GFF’s partner countries, was making progress as part of an ambitious investment framework to scale up access to quality reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health.
But due to COVID-19, “the trend started to head downwards,” said Pauline Irungu, senior policy and advocacy officer in the Kenya office at PATH, the nonprofit global health organization.
Over the past year, factors including fear of infection, a limited supply of health workers being redirected to pandemic response, and curfews and lockdowns have prevented people — women and children in particular — from accessing the lifesaving services they need, said Irungu, who serves as a civil society representative to the GFF Investors Group, which is meeting this week.
She pointed to the dramatic rise of stillbirths in Kenya as one example of the pandemic’s devastating consequences for women and children.
GFF can help countries such as Kenya get back on track in achieving goals around reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health, or RMNCH, by working “at the country level” in a way that engages government, the private sector, donors, and civil society organizations, Irungu said.
This $1.2 billion campaign is part of a larger $2.5 billion funding target GFF says it needs to meet by 2025 to “reclaim the gains” made before the pandemic on the health of women and children.
With this $2.5 billion, GFF said it plans to expand from 36 to 50 countries, contribute to saving 18 million lives, and mobilize $52.7 billion in health financing by 2030.
As a financing facility, GFF aims to use grant funding in a catalytic way through a trust fund that can “crowd in” resources from a broad set of partners, including domestic government resources, financing from the World Bank’s International Development Association and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and private sector sources.
According to a press release, if GFF is successful in hitting its $2.5 billion funding target for 2021 to 2025, it expects that:
Overall service loss in individual countries for women, children, and adolescents varies from 10% to 60%, according to the Independent Accountability Panel on Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent.
· “More than 56 million additional women will be able to access skilled birth attendants to ensure they survive childbirth and deliver their babies safely.”
· “458 million additional children will receive oral rehydration treatment for diarrhea, to prevent a major cause of child deaths.”
· Nearly “25 million additional women and adolescents will gain access to modern methods of contraception, to prevent unintended pregnancies.”
Beyond ways to mobilize resources for the GFF Trust Fund, a key priority being discussed at this week’s GFF Investors Group meetings is ensuring gender equality in pandemic recovery efforts, Irungu said.
“There’s almost a sense that if you are doing RMNCH and nutrition, you’re addressing gender,” she said. “But that’s an assumption. There has to be intentionality.”